16 Blocks

Bomb Rating: 

If you have a role for an over-the-hill, down on his luck, wizened police officer, just call Bruce Willis. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he's set up a special 1-800 number to field the inquiries. Apparently, Bruce refuses no opportunity to play a cop and filmmakers hedging their bets are eager to dial 1-800-TYPECAST to make it happen. Rumor has it that director Richard Donner wanted to cast Mel Gibson in the Mos Def role for some "original and striking police banter," but Gibson was unavailable due to time constraints from trying to film his new sci-fi epic in Martian.

Bruce recently played an over-the-hill cop in both "Sin City" and "Hostage," and that's not taking into consideration his role in the "Die Hard" series, where Willis's John McClane was rendered over-the-hill by the simple fact that audiences were sick of him after the first movie. Willis has now perfected the regretful, faraway stare, and directors, especially hacks like Donner, love those lines in his face that scream age.

Fans who haven't gotten enough of Willis as a cop will be happy to know that "Die Hard 4.0" is in pre-production. Vegas has already set odds on how he will spin his cop persona in that film:

2 to 1 - Bruce plays it tough but vulnerable
3 to 1 - Bruce plays it vulnerable but tough
4 to 1 - Bruce plays it hardened but guilt-ridden
9 to 1 - Bruce is teamed with an adorable but mischievous monkey

In "16 Blocks," detective Jack Mosley (Willis) is an alcoholic paper pusher in New York's 14th precinct. He has a limp and one hand on the bottle at all times. He's given the job of escorting a witness, Eddie Bunker (Mos Def), to court, a mere 16 blocks from his precinct. Things go awry when thugs try to kill Eddie and Mosley makes a stand, despite his lifelong commitment to looking the other way. This change of heart is particularly surprising given that Jack learns that his former partner, Frank Nugent (David Morse), is trying to keep Eddie from testifying because Eddie saw something that will put bad cops behind bars. Frankly, it's not clear whether Eddie's testimony would be a good or a bad thing since it would apparently take every single cop off the streets, leaving New York at the mercy of roving bands of criminals, terrorists and investment bankers.

Mos Def plays his character as a satanic mix between Gilbert Gottfried and Webster, appearing nervous most of the time, yet finding the time to impart important wisdom to Mosley whenever Mosley is unsure of what he's doing. If only someone had imparted some wisdom to Donner, such as the gentle suggestion that his time might have been better spent in the buddy cop factory turning the crank on "Lethal Weapon 5."

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