Reel Reviews | Black and Blue

by Charles Kirkland Jr.

Director Deon Taylor ups the ante with Oscar nominee Naomie Harris and Tyrese Gibson in the action thriller Black and Blue.

Rookie officer, Alicia West (Naomie Harris) has a new assignment today.  She is partnered with Deacon Brown (James Moses Black), an officer who patrols the streets of the New Orleans ward where she grew up until she left for the military. Early into the shift, Brown goes to a warehouse to meet with a confidential informant.  While West remains with the car, she hears gunfire in the warehouse.  West turns on her body camera and enters the warehouse to support her partner.  Upon her arrival, she witnesses and records the execution of the informants by Detective Terry Malone (Frank Grillo) while Brown and another officer are watching.  Now on the run, Malone tells kingpin Darius (Mike Colter) that West is responsible for the shooting of the informants which has the gang in search of her.  West is now embroiled in an all-out effort to not just save her life but to clear her name and bring the true villains to justice.

Written by Peter A. Dowling (Flightplan), Black and Blue is the latest in a long line of features directed by Deon Taylor (Meet The Blacks, Supremacy, The Intruder).  Black and Blue stars Harris, Colter and Grillo along with Tyrese Gibson as Mouse, a local store owner, and Nafessa Williams as Missy, a one-time friend of Alicia West from childhood. 

In true Taylor fashion, he has enlisted quality talent to work in this film.  Oscar nominee Naomie Harris (Moonlight) turns in a solid performance as a just policewoman in an unjust situation. She is clearly the hero, almost superhero in a world of villains.  Tyrese Gibson is more than adequate as the assist for the hero and Frank Grillo’s work feels over the top a lot of times in this film but that plays as a good bad guy here.  None of the talents actually elevates the film but they do fuel Taylor’s reputation for getting stars to work for him.

Like many of Taylor’s other work, this movie is simple, straightforward and plain.  The characters are who they are and there is no surprise.  Almost every taken by the characters in the film is transparent and telegraphed.  This is unapologetically, an action movie.  However, unlike Traffik and The Intruder, there is a sensibility to this movie that was absent. Thankfully, there are no contrived or inane plot twists or devious machinations that are revealed later.  What you see is what you get.  The lack of complexity, in this case, actually comes as almost a positive in that it makes them accessible to the viewers.  None of the decisions made by the main characters seem to be too unrealistic.  In fact, simplicity reflects the main theme of the story; right is right and wrong is wrong.

Kudos go to Geoff Zanelli (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) for crafting an excellent score for the movie. Zanelli, who has worked with Gore Verbinski, Ridley Scott and Jerry Bruckheimer, smartly puts together a hefty soundtrack that accents and enhances the drama happening on the screen without detracting from the experience.

Rated R for language and violence, Black and Blue is a triumph for Deon Taylor.  This is his best film to date but that doesn’t make it great.  Don’t go to this movie expecting a stylized crime action thriller but it is passable entertainment that will allow the opportunity for predictable and clichéd escapism.

Grade:  B-