Movie Review: ‘Black and Blue’

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“Black and Blue” follows Alicia West (Naomie Harris), a young New Orleans police officer. After capturing an act of corruption, she is targeted by local gangs. She goes on the run, hoping to survive the ordeal. The end result is a crime film that lies in the middle ground; it’s neither bad nor great. In simple terms, “Black and Blue” is a satisfying experience, complete with solid craftsmanship. 

With the help of cinematographer Dante Spinotti, Deon Taylor (the director) creates a murky, lived in atmosphere. Spinotti, an artist accustomed to the cinematic mechanics of crime environments, photographs this setting with ease, capturing the long term scars of New Orleans. The aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina loom large, and at the onset, we see the harshness that plagues urban civilians. This broken, vandalized environment creates something of a ghost town, perfectly suitable for a film of moralistic proportions. 

With this picture, there is a sense of photographic franticness. Thankfully, the film’s utilization of frantic-like sensibilities never feels overbearing or visually uninteresting. The action is always clear, and when bullets are fired, we see the ugliness that comes with undisciplined gunplay. When bullets hit human beings, the results are quick and nasty, pointing to the ever disturbing nature of violence. Kinetic energy is sprinkled throughout the narrative, giving the film a peppy change of pace. 

Overall, the performances do not disappoint. Naomie Harris turns in an exceptional performance, consisting of perspective, hopefulness and unabashed morality. The screenplay, written by Peter A. Dowling, does a solid job of capturing female goodness. While a bit on the nose at times, the script shows us that in a world so corrupt, it’s easy to give into adversity. Harris’ character is a source of moralistic inspiration, telling us that it’s okay to be at odds with our environment. If we are in the right, there is nothing wrong with our existential path. 

Tyrese Gibson turns in a fine performance, a far cry from his flashy, overly comedic roles in the “Fast and Furious” franchise. This time around, Gibson is more subdued. His seriousness perfectly echoes his earlier work with John Singleton, a filmmaker who wonderfully navigated the cinematic realm of African American experience. Hopefully, in the near future, Gibson will continue to embrace his dramatic chops. 

“Black and Blue” won’t blow your socks off, but it will give you proper entertainment. Like most films, it’s not devoid of flaws. At times, the musical score minimizes the weight of specific scenes. Other times, the dialogue becomes monumentally hammy, and as time goes on, specific performances are overplayed. At times, the actors feel like caricatures instead of developed beings. 

Lastly, the tension that exists between the protagonist and the community feels a bit underdeveloped. If this element had been fleshed out, the ensuing results would spark even more resonance. But all in all, if you are looking for a worthwhile movie, watch “Black and Blue.” It may be formulaic, but Taylor makes it enjoyable.

My Grade:  B-

Dillon McCarty can be contacted at [email protected]

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