Bruce Willis, Mos Def and David Morse all give weight to this well made film.
Sadly, this film got a little too convoluted at the end.
It has been quite awhile since we have been treated to an old school action movie and who better to give us that than Richard Donner?
Overall, 16 Blocks is a solidly made film which features stand out performances by all the main cast members. Bruce Willis stars as Jack Mosley, a burnt out cop given the mission of taking Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) to a local courthouse which is 16 Blocks away. Apparently, Bunker has some information that is going to bring down a lot of police officers and Willis soon finds himself battling his old friends led by his ex-partner Frank (David Morse). With a bevy of twists and turns along the way 16 Blocks eventually finds it's destination.
The biggest problem that I had with this film is that when the twist comes, I don't know that it really had the impact that I thought it would. Granted, it "pays off" something that has been setup since Mosley finds out that these guys are after him, I can't help but wondering if there might have been a more interesting and less convoluted way to do that.
An interesting ending in that it seems to take the "money shot" away that was ultimately in the film that played theatrically. While I don't want to get into this too much (I have saved that for the Final Word section), I think this ending is interesting but ultimately left as something for the supplemental portion of the DVD.
Deleted Scenes with Commentary Track
Richard Donner and Richard Wenk are having a good time here as they discuss the scenes that were cut from the film. There is a frankness about why they were cut but also a reverence for the work done in the scenes. We get to see Mos Def and Bruce Willis riff on being a "rat," there is a scene in a bakery and a few others that really enhance the characters but didn't need to be in the film proper.
Widescreen Version. Presented in a "Letterbox" Widescreen format preserving the "scope" aspect ratio of it's original theatrical exhibition. Enhanced for Widescreen TVs. As Richard Donner had a lot of success with the Lethal Weapon films of the 1980s, I am not surprised that 16 Blocks had the same hard look and quick action as those films. Also, Donner doesn't seem to experiment too much with the images, rather he just seems to present them as they are. This movie also looked like the compression process added an extra edge of harshness to the film.
Dolby Digital. English and French Dolby Surround 5.1. This movie brings the city of New York into this film by making it a character we can always hear. In fact, taking us through the characters journey is this audio ambiance that always gives us a sense of where we are and what is going on. When one realizes what is at stake and then looks at the area that our heroes have to work in, that makes this film more claustrophobic and "city like" than anything else.
Mos Def and Bruce Willis stand together as if hiding behind a door on this front cover. The title 16 Blocks is the only thing between them and Frank Nugent (David Morse). Even the font used gives this film a hard edged feel. The back offers up some shots from the film, a description of what 16 Blocks is about, a Special Features list, a cast list and technical specs. Overall, this cover is simple but it gets the point across.
After watching this film I went back and watched the alternate ending on this disc. According to Richard Donner and screenwriter Richard Wenk, the version that played in the theater was actually the alternate version. I don't usually say this but I have to give Warner Bros. credit for going back and making them redo the ending. I understand where Donner was coming from in trying to create empathy for the characters, but frankly I think too many action films today try and create too much empathy and it seems artificial.
That's what made 16 Blocks such a breath of fresh air. For so much of the movie the characters and stories seem very organic. It is this reason and this reason alone that I think consumers will want to own this film.
16 Blocks was released March 1, 2006.