16 Blocks

Cover Art: 5/10
This is an action flick, so let’s not be too concerned that the cover and menu are semi-boring. I’m almost always pretty negative about covers and menus, and that’s for one simple reason.. THEY ARE BORING AND UNPLEASANT to look at. Why can’t the people in charge of the cover art and menu design have some ideas other than slapping the movie poster, or some version thereof on the box and leave it at that? There are so many elements to every movie to choose visual tid bits from, but instead they always go for the actors and some lame image torn straight from a scene in the movie. I’m gonna watch the movie people, I don’t need to see it on the cover of the flamin’ box!

Features: 6/10
There’s not much in the way of extras offered on this disc. I think sometimes they want to get a movie out on DVD so quickly to make some cash they don’t really care if they scrimp on the tasty bits they could be tossing to us DVD buying types. I prefer to have at least an hour or more of extras on any movie that I take the time to watch on DVD. 16 Blocks is compelling, to my surprise, and I would like to know more about how different scenes were made, alas, I’ll have to wait for some freaky special edition I suppose. Here are the extras they did include:

  • Alternate Ending – Surprise surprise, this is pretty cool actually because you can watch the whole movie with either ending. Most DVD’s only give you the option to watch an alternate ending completely separate from the film itself, but this time you can see either one seamlessly cut into it’s own version of the story. I appreciate that little feature. Both endings are valid, but they each take the story in a whole different kind of ending. That’s what an alternate ending should be, not just a little tiny sliver of a change or an extended version of the original. The “alternate” ending is actually the one they shot from the script, but during the process of making the film they decided to go another way with the conclusion of the story, thus two endings were born.
  • Deleted Scenes – Usually I’m not that impressed or even interested in deleted scenes. It seems that most of the time they are all just little snippets of scenes that are not necessary or do anything to add to the movie, or the whole DVD package for that matter. 16 Blocks is a good flick, and when the final product is good, there must have been some good, or at least not horrible slices of scenes that were cut out in the process of putting it all together. The director and producer do a running commentary, audio and video, along with each deleted scene explaining why it was cut, chatting about the movie, and over all making these deleted scenes a quality extra. I don’t say it often, but these deleted scenes are worth watching.

The Movie: 8/10
I see a new action movie hit the review list and I hold my breath. I think back to the glory days when Lethal Weapon and Die Hard rocked our worlds. Followed shortly by the testosterone laced Armageddon, The Rock, Con Air, and various other movies with bad guys and natural disasters. These movies might not be intellectually stimulating, bus so what. A bit of chasing, a few cheesy one liners, and a lot of stunts that keep us wide eyed and waiting for more.

So, like I said, now days, the words action movie don’t give me that little hidden secret thrill they used to. I have keep my expectations low down to the ground and my tolerance for driveling bullshit up to the rafters, otherwise some so called action block busters might cause me serious depression.

How does this all come into play with 16 Blocks? I had no expectations. I hoped for the best and prepared for the worst. Hmm, that seems as though it might put a slight bias on my opinion of the movie, but I think I can fairly say that I was happily surprised and pleasantly entertained, all for good reasons.

Bruce Willis has brought me many hours of movie viewing pleasure over the years. Yea, so what if he’s been slightly boring sometimes with predictable characters who all seem to have that tortured soul routine going on inside them. He always has something to overcome, some tragedy, or self imposed exile from his family, a bitter ex-spouse, or others left in the wake of his tormented past.

Ok, 16 Blocks isn’t much off that mark. I admit, his old worn out cop character who has been on the force a few bottles and belt notches too long does ring that tone of ho-hum, what’s this guy’s sob story, vibe. It’s just that after the first few minutes I forgot my skepticism and got wrapped up in the action, the story, the other characters, the city, all of it. Any writer, director, producer who can distract me from my own snotty hang-ups about certain kinds of characters and specific weaknesses of actors I’ve watched for so long, are doing a hell of a job. Granted, this isn’t a thinking person’s movie; don’t be tricked by my praises into imagining some kind of life altering revelation or original theme that makes you go, “wow, that’s clever.” It won’t.

It’s bad cops verses the good cops, and everyone else caught in the middle. It doesn’t even take the often-pretentious route of throwing us any elaborate twists and turns that might modernize the old school battle between deception, lies, and corruption, against honesty, truth, and doing the right thing. It is what it is folks. Take that as you will.

Our aging cop gets the duty of taking a young defendant 16 blocks to the courthouse to testify to a grand jury. He’s got to be there by 10 AM and nothing should get in the way. That is nothing until someone tries to kill the defendant dude (Mos Def) and Willis intervenes in what appears to be an out of the norm burst of courage and determination to do what is right.

There is a bit of hope and positive thinking written in to keep the dark side of things from taking it all down too low. It’s not a feel good movie, but it’s got value in the sense that it will make you think a tiny bit about making choices in life, making changes in your life, and learning from your mistakes before it’s too late.

Throughout the movie, the action is solid, with excellent stunts, fantastic sound, wonderful scenes of the city underground, on the streets, and through the often dingy hallways and back alleys. It looks amazing and just when you think you are watching a standard action type story you get the bonus treats of good performances by everyone, quality dialogue (most of the time), and an unexplainable feeling of authenticity. I can’t explain that last bit. All I know is that it doesn’t look or taste as polished and glossy as most Hollywood chase’em ups. It’s got some grit, some blood, and enough close up moments when the movement takes a break to keep you riveted to the characters, not just waiting for the next blast, race, chase, or burst of activity. It’s a satisfying movie in almost every respect, and that’s coming from someone who’s not a die-hard (pardon the expression) action lover, but I liked it. I really liked it.

Value: 7/10
At this point in my life I have to be realistic and admit that going to the theater to see a movie is not the experience I once thought it was. With noisy people, scratched films, bad screens, poor air conditioning/heating, stinky smells coming from mysterious places, it’s not the way to enjoy a movie, not really. I will go once in a while to see a big release, or a kid movie with my nephew, or just to gauge if the public is done being jerks. Almost immediately I am glad to get back home to my comfy leather chair with a cup holder, big TV, and surround sound, not to mention the bathroom is close enough to hear the movie if you do choose to take a pee break at some point.

So what’s my point? These days I do think the cost of a DVD can be measured against the cost of going to the theater and how much you will enjoy the movie over all. 16 Blocks is as low as 15 bucks online, and it’s an good action movie to kick back and watch on a Saturday night. You can rent it for 5 and have even more fun with the saved cash. Either way, it’s well worth it. A good movie with a good social commentary, and a little bit of extras, all in the comfort of your own home, or neighbor’s home, or friend, or sister, or whoever…

Overall Score 7/10