One downtrodden detective looking for redemption. One star witness set to testify against corrupt cops who are gunning for him. 16 Blocks to the courthouse. You get the picture.
Once respected, NYPD detective Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) is now pretty much on his last legs, literally and figuratively. He drinks, is relegated to a desk job and walks with a limp. One morning, after a long shift, he's corralled into transporting a petty criminal, Eddie Bunker (Mos Def), to the courthouse 16 blocks away so he can testify by 10:00 a.m. What Jack doesn't know is that Eddie is one of the key witnesses in a case against crooked cops--that is, until the two start getting shot at. Then it becomes crystal clear. The main bad guy, Jack's former partner Frank (David Morse), basically lets Jack know Eddie will never testify, to just go ahead and hand him over, but Frank underestimates Jack's desire to finally do something good. So, Jack and Eddie fight their way to the courthouse block by gut-wrenching block. Oh, no, there's nothing formulaic about 16 Blocks, not at all.
In a film as predictable as this, the only thing that'll make it stand out is the performances. 16 Blocks nearly succeeds--but not quite. It would seem Willis is playing a character he's played a hundred times before--the misunderstood and slightly unorthodox cop with a heart of gold. But as Jack, the actor does a nice job trying out some new things, namely playing fat, bald and grizzled. You can almost smell how bad Jack's breath has to be. Rapper/actor Mos Def, who usually brightens any film he's in, also tries his hand at something different, but his choices aren't as smart. As the talkative and affable Eddie, Mos comes up with one of the more annoying, nasally accents ever recorded. After about five minutes of screen time, you desperately want him to stop and say, "Just kidding! I don't really talk like this." But he doesn't. It's too bad something like an accent can ruin an otherwise decent performance.
Old-school director Richard Donner, best known for his Lethal Weapons, is a consummate professional when it comes to making these kind of movies. In other words, he pretty much paints by numbers. We watch Jack and Eddie get out of one tight situation after another, as the gaggle of bad cops try to gun them down. I mean, 16 blocks doesn't seem that far to go, so they better throw in as many highly implausible obstacles as they can. Chinese laundries, alleyways, rooftops, subways. And yes, even a city bus, which the pair--who have by now bonded big time--has to hijack. Donner also employs a popular but nonetheless annoying technique of zooming in when the action heats up, so you can't really see what's going on. Even if you're addicted to action movies--a Bruce Willis action movie, no less--16 Blocks just doesn't deliver the goods.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 stars.