Hard-edged police thrillers have been popular for many decades, and Black and Blue does a fair job of marshalling the obligatory clichés that have long adhered to this workhorse genre.
Oscar-nominated British actor Naomie Harris (Skyfall, Moonlight) stars as Alicia West, a rookie cop in New Orleans. West had fled her black ghetto a decade earlier, ultimately serving two military tours in Afghanistan. She’s returned to her troubled home town with hopes of “making a difference,” but soon finds that many of her fellow cops are cynics and racists while the underclass ghetto blacks are angry and suspicious – often with good reason.
“You’re blue now,” warns a hard-ass superior officer, also black, who fears West’s do-gooder attitude will get her into trouble. But when trouble comes, the source is unexpected: she stumbles upon a trio of corrupt officers executing a young drug dealer. With that shocking scene filmed on her body cam, West is literally a target: wounded and on the run from those killer cops, she’s framed for the murder and is soon being hunted by both cops and drug dealers. With no allies except for a convenience store clerk (Tyrese Gibson, Fast & Furious) who reluctantly comes to her aid, West seems unlikely to survive the night.
Much of Blue wouldn’t be out of place on any decent TV cop show. The corrupt cops are slimy, and the drug dealers swagger around being all “gangstah.” In terms of action, the suspense-filled early chase scenes evolve into some adrenaline-pumping gun-and-run episodes, all leading to a climactic siege where cops and gangbangers shoot it out with brutally convincing lethality.
But if the plotting is routine and many of the characters seem to come from a Scriptwriting 101 course, the direction is kinetic and the portrayal of the hardscrabble life in those post-Katrina ghettos is honest and empathetic.
No one’s going to mistake this for an art film, but the social-justice themes about poverty and oppression and institutionalized police corruption certainly resonate in an era of Black Lives Matter. The charismatic Gibson swaps out his usual bad-boy cutes for an interesting performance as a decent, conflicted man just trying to get by keeping his head down. But save most of your applause for the abundantly talented Harris, whose portrayal of the gutsy and idealistic rookie is Blue’s greatest asset.
Stars Naomie Harris and Tyrese Gibson
Directed by Deon Taylor
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