You've got to feel sorry for Bruce Willis. He's finally hit the age that actors dread, that age where the roles he gets offered change from "rippling sweaty hero" to "broken down older cop close to retirement."
Having said that, 16 Blocks is a stunning revelation. A better actor than could be indicated by virtually anything he's ever done before, Willis manages to pull off the role of a booze-soaked, overweight, has-been cop with almost heartwarming ease. Far from the wiseass hero in Die Hard, or the still-proud but overlooked sheriff in Hostage, Jack Mosley is a man whose career is nothing but a distant memory, the butt of the precinct, and the cop nobody expects to do anything worthwhile.
One gets the impression that this movie might have been intended to be Die Hard 4 (which rumour still suggests is in the works), but is way too powerful a film to simply be the arse-end of that particular series. Besides, the character of Jack Mosely is far to ignominious an end for John McClane, as much as it would humanise the character.
The plot is laughably simple for such a complex movie. Mosley, dragged out of his usual too-drunk-to-be-this-hungover morning is told to escort a witness named Eddie Bunker (played admirably by Mos Def) 16 blocks across the city to the District Attorney's office. The witness, however, witnessed cops being Bad Cops, and those cops want him dead. Will Mosely shake the habit of a lifetime and actually do the right thing?
Well, of course he bloody does, otherwise this would be the shortest and most pointless movie in history.
What follows is Die Hard with brains. Shootouts galore, yes, but there's story, there's character development, and, yes, by the end of the movie one actually cares whether Mosely and Bunker make it. One wants to see the bad guys go down so much that it's hard not to boo them when they're onscreen.
Overall, this is a movie that will rank on the "good" side of Willis' star "Good/Shite" resume.
Doombreed rating: *****