16 Blocks

Can a man be made whole again in

16 Blocks

Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) is a New York City police detective just marking time. He is a walking billboard of a human being so fractured and full of holes he looks to be disintegrating before our eyes. He can barely drag himself from one task to another, an automaton fueled by alcohol. Devoid of life and hope, his dead eyes look out at the world in a red haze. Hanging on by his fingernails till he is reprieved by pension, he is a joke in the department, the only order of family and friends left to him. He is given only the lowliest and meanest of jobs.

The story begins at the end, with Jack telling the details. He takes us back to where it all began – tasked with “sitting” with an ugly crime scene through a long night, till the “real” detectives got to it. By morning, exhausted and in need of refueling, he is buttonholed before he can go off duty. The department needs a warm body to drive a witness to the courthouse sixteen blocks away. It should only be a matter of a couple of minutes.

But traffic is snarled by road work and Jack needs refueling. He stops at a favorite liquor store, leaving his charge, small-time hood and material witness, Eddie Bunker (Mos Def), handcuffed in the backseat of the car. A hit man, aiming for Eddie, materializes beside the window. But the shot we hear comes not from beside the car, but from the street, where Jack Mosley has emerged with his brown paper purchase. Almost simultaneously with the shot that kills the assassin, is the slow motion shattering of the forgotten bottle on the sidewalk. The red eyes that were so lost just moments before, begin tracking all movement in a surreal capsule of slowed time, before everything erupts into a chaos of gunfire. This is the first scene in which Mosley makes a positive life choice, and our first glimpse of the man he used to be.

But even now it’s merely his job, a knee-jerk response to all his years of training, when he was good, when he was whole. But as each scene progresses, we are given an unparalleled view of a broken man being put back together again. Though at first Eddie scorns and mistrusts Jack Mosley when he discovers his police escort is a “wino”, and Jack scorns this alleged small-time thief as a “nobody”, events conspire to change those first impressions. When they are on the run and Jack finds Eddie after the young man gives him the slip, Jack desperately tries to make him understand that, “I’m your only friend in this!” To which Eddie yells, “You don’t even know me!”

Jack, however, begins to appreciate the worth and the dreams of even the lowliest life, and Eddie begins to believe that a benign guiding force has brought him Jack Mosley. With his funny squeaky voice, and non-stop, verbal life views and future plans, Eddie begins to break through the concrete haze of Jack’s outer shell to the man within. It’s as if Jack is beset by such an innocence of faith and hope, in the form of Eddie, that he must save him at all cost.

The cost will surely be his life, though he hardly holds that of any worth. But to be faithful to this new order in his life, he must betray the old, who will not go down without a fight to the death. When Jack learns who Eddie is testifying against (his own department colleagues), it becomes a race against time. It’s the wino and the nobody against the gum-chewing, condescending aplomb of Det. Frank Nugent (David Morse), and his unlimited resources. Nugent, Jack’s oldest friend and newest nemesis, sees his house of cards beginning to crumble. For the sake of their old friendship, he tries to herd Jack back into the relative safety of life in the bottle. But Jack has found a purpose for a brief time and will not be driven back.

“That kid is gonna get you killed,” Frank tells Jack between an exchange of gunfire.“Lines were crossed, Frank,” says Jack, to which his old partner replies, “There are no lines.” Mosley tries to reason with his old friend that the events they set in motion years before were utterly wrong. Too many people had been hurt and the truth must come out. But he refuses to listen. In the end, Nugent’s searing condemnation of truth comes blasting from the screen with such force it took my breath away.

Bruce Willis as Jack Mosley and David Morse as Det. Frank Nugent

Sixteen Blocks is a movie about integrity, the loss of which can sink ships and destroy lives. It’s about  three main characters, Det. Jack Mosley, Eddie Bunker, and Det. Frank Nugent, who embark upon a 16-block journey. Where it takes them is the heart of a movie you won’t soon forget.

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2 thoughts on “16 Blocks

  1. You have managed to do what all finely crafted reviews do, and that is to bring the film to life in the reader’s mind and compel them to wish to experience it for themselves. I happened to miss this on it’s release, but I won’t continue that mistake. Thanks for the recommendation.

    • Concur whole-heartedly with Chandler. It makes me want to see a movie that I had dismissed as just fluff. Thanks!

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