Corrupt cops have been the villains of many action movies. Steven Seagal specialized in fighting them. Corrupt cops used to be the rogue villains in a world that still believed they could trust most police. In 2019 Black and Blue addresses the politically charged issue of police violence in a suspenseful thriller about a good cop played by Naomie Harris going rogue against a corrupt system.
Naomie Harris is the good cop
Alicia West (Naomie Harris) is a rookie cop in New Orleans. One night she fills in for her partner with Deacon Brown when she stumbles upon Brown, Malloy (Frank Grillo) and Smitty (Beau Knapp) killing an informant. She caught it all on her body camera so Malloy and his boys chase her around town.
Black and Blue really keeps the pace up. Once the shooting occurs, it’s a relentless thriller. West goes out of the frying pan and right into the fire as it were, with escalating tension the longer she’s on the run. Malloy uses the police radio and his network to keep the cops coming after West everywhere she turns. At one point they even spread West’s information virally to paint a target on her back. That’s not hard though because the people already don’t trust cops so they won’t help her.
West is resourceful on her own and the one person she can turn to is Miles (Tyrese), a shop owner with whom she has history. It’s really Black Vs. Blue. West herself is accosted by cops when she’s out of uniform, and she scolds Brown for being overly aggressive when it turns out the perp did have a gun. A movie won’t solve that climate, but it creates a tense atmosphere for the drama and is provocative after the movie ends.
Naomie Harris stands up to the bad cops
Black and Blue is action-packed but the stunts aren’t overblown. Cars crash but don’t explode. West runs and fights back, and it’s all coherent. It’s sad we have to be grateful for the bare minimum. In a post-Bourne world, Black and Blue may not be John Wick but the fact that it’s not shaky makes it solid excitement.
It’s a really satisfying journey. You want to see West prevail over these terrible corrupt cops. The finale is a real crowd pleaser. Any time one of Malloy’s men goes down, the audience cheers. This is how art at its best can reflect life. People are fed up with police violence and feel powerless to stop it. A movie like Black and Blue gives hope that justice is possible, and a catharsis if nothing else.
It’s great to give Naomie Harris a heroic lead role. Tyrese has gotten his in the Fast and the Furious and Transformers movies but Harris has been sidelined in Rampage, Pirates of the Caribbean and even James Bond, although in that case she knew she was signing up to be Moneypenny. Alicia West is a breakthrough role for Naomie Harris, which I hate to say of someone who’s been working for 30 years and appeared in Oscar winning films, but the struggle takes time to break through the system.
If there’s one major critique of Black and Blue, the dialogue is a tad simplistic. West might caution, “Either you’re with me or you get a bullet in the heat.” Brown tells her, “You’re not black anymore. You’re blue.” Gangster Darius (Mike Colter) even says, “I showed you mine, now show me yours.” That’s the extent of sophisticated innuendo, but I suppose it fits. These are not criminal geniuses. These are street gangsters and beat cops.
Not that beat cops can’t be well read and articulate, but it’s not that kind of movie. So the dialogue does the job of getting the characters through the intense situations, and the scenario creates the drama for the actors to play.
Black and Blue is a good time at the movies. It uses a relevant modern issue to put the viewer in the shoes of the hero, and uses and uses an entertaining thrill ride to address relevant issues.