Film Review – Black and Blue
Black and Blue
Black and Blue comes at a prolonged contentious time between African Americans and the police, especially in my area of Dallas-Fort Worth. With an unprovoked, deadly police shooting in Fort Worth earlier this month, it is probably not the best time for a fictional film like this to stoke the fires. I would be more interested in an in-depth documentary of what has happened in the past few years, but the audience has Black and Blue coming out this weekend regardless. As a Caucasian female writer, I will do my best to analyze this film, but if you are of a different race than I, please take it with a grain of salt. You probably already are, as my life experience with police should not be any different than yours, but it unfortunately is. It should be noted that Peter A. Dowling, a Caucasian, wrote the script, but Deon Taylor, an African American, directed it.
Black and Blue follows police rookie Alicia West (Naomie Harris) in New Orleans, Louisiana. The audience is brought directly into her career choice with no backstory, but her history is revealed as the film progresses. Riding with her partner, police officer Kevin (Reid Scott), it is evident on their drives through the neighborhoods that police are not trusted, and just because West is black doesn’t make them willing to trust her anymore. When she witnesses vice cops kill gang members in an abandoned warehouse, her faith in her fellow police officers and her job is wholly destroyed. She recorded the crime on her body cam, and the vice cops, Terry Malone (Frank Grillo) and his partner (Beau Knapp), immediately try to kill her before she can rat on them and upload the body cam footage to a precinct. The only person in the neighborhood around the warehouse that is willing to help her (even reluctantly) is her old friend Mouse (Tyrese Gibson), who works at the local convenience store.
The film is in almost constant motion, moving with West as she figures out who she can trust and using some of the police force’s policies and weaknesses against them to attempt to get that footage to the right hands. It is both an action film and also using current news to make a statement. The most endearing characteristic of West is she continually sees the good in people and wants to make a change, which is why she became a cop in her old neighborhood. We are taught from when we are young that the police are people you can trust, and you should run to them to get help if you are ever in danger or if you see something that is not right. West believes that her fellow cops have the same ideals and principles as hers, and this could not be farther from the truth.
The issue of body cameras is central to the plot of Black and Blue. At the beginning of the film, it seems that all cops are wearing a bulletproof vest and a body camera. However, when West is asked to pull a double and ride with Officer Deacon Brown (James Moses Black), he laughs at her use of the body cam and tells her to never point it at her. At this point, the audience has to assume that the bulletproof vest and the body cam are voluntary, which makes absolutely no sense. Are cops in the precinct that have more seniority allowed not to wear these devices? I have never read anywhere that body cams on police officers are voluntary, and the only reason that Officer Brown doesn’t have one is that it serves the plot of the film. It’s a glaring issue that’s never addressed.
I am not a Fast and the Furious fan, having seen the first film only, so my experience with Tyrese Gibson’s acting ability is limited. Having said that, he perfectly captured the character Mouse. He has a larger build in this film that makes him a bit more intimidating and the patchy beard that says that he doesn’t have the means or the time to keep up a grooming routine. Even with his significant presence, being handcuffed and thrown against a cooler for doing nothing wrong resonates with the audience. The guy is trying to be tough, but the words being said and the actions taken against him by the cops lead him to get upset and show the vulnerability of growing up in this environment. While Naomie Harris’ West adapts quickly to the wrongs being thrown at her, Mouse is in his element, aware of all the wrongdoings and prejudices already. His acting and his character were unexpectedly the highlights of the film.
The audience has to suspend a lot of disbelief to enjoy Black and Blue and go with what the film is trying to sell you because much of it doesn’t make any sense. I’ve never hated characters so much as I did Frank Grillo and Beau Knapp’s vice cops because the film allowed them to get away with so much and use the flimsy system this film is built around to serve their own purposes. The plot holes are infuriating. The film attempts to brighten the situation at the very end, and it felt like an afterschool special, and the power ballad didn’t help. If the script was better written and the plot tightened up, Black and Blue could have been a decent film and served a higher purpose.