The first thing I noticed about 16 Blocks is that I think it’s the first time I’ve seen Bruce Willis playing his age. He looks really very rough in this. Essentially lifting the plot of Clint Eastwood’s mediocre action flick The Gauntlet (the link is to my review from earlier this year), this film condenses the space and paints it on a gritty urban canvas of side streets and underground car-parks. Mos Def plays the witness that Willis’ hard-bitten alcho-cop has to transport to a court appearance, but travelling that short distance becomes a problem when someone tries to kill the witness and Brucie boy decides to shake off the beer fuzz and man-up.
This is an entertaining genre film, something that I’d like to see John Carpenter making more of. So it came as a bit of a surprise to see Superman director, Richard Donner’s name on the end credits, I must have missed it at the start, but that explained why it is a solidly paced and well shot action thriller – far outstripping Clint’s laboured effort at a similar thing. Mos Def is initially a bit annoying but eventually I could only find him endearing, his slightly simple outlook and genuine panic give the film a heart that it otherwise might not have had and Willis seems to genuinely warm to him aswell. Alongside Be Kind Rewind this bodes well for the guy. Willis on the other hand is entering into the difficult twilight of the action star, a path that Clint is probably the most successful survivor of. This thinking gave me the idea that 16 Blocks is in many ways another Die Hard film, perhaps a more appropriate final chapter for the accidental hero character that Willis perfected back in the 80s.