By Cindy (Binh) Nguyen
Layout and Design Editor
Oscar-nominated for her role in 2017’s “Moonlight,” Naomi Harris returns to the silver screen in “Black and Blue,” a New Orleans-set fast-paced action thriller.
Plots about morally corrupt cops aren’t fresh on screen. In “Black and Blue,” rookie cop Alicia West (Harris), only a few weeks in uniform, inadvertently catches three police officers executing an unarmed teenage drug dealer called Zero on her body cam. After one cop shoots her out of panic, West has to run.
This is when the movie goes back to the expectable plot with a wounded protagonist being chased down by the villains, the “blues.” A trio of corrupt cops desperately try to steal the incriminating footage and put the blame on West and the “blacks.” Meanwhile, a crime-ridden, impoverished community is under the reign of an infuriated drug lord (Mike Colter), who believes West murdered Zero, his beloved nephew.
On the run, West learns that even though she was a “black” born and raised in the neighborhood, all people see is her “blue” badge. Even her best friend, Missy (Beau Knapp), calls her “officer,” a synonym for “traitor.” No one to trust, West turns to an old acquaintance named Milo “Mouse” Jackson (Tyrese Gibson).
The movie manages to raise awareness of racial profiling, institutional discrimination and police abuse of power. For example, the opening scene shows West being slammed against the fence by white cops while jogging because she resembles their suspect, someone black.
The scene captures the problematic “law and order” in the United States that intimidates, corners and points a gun at people of color. — a system that causes black parents in poverty-stricken neighborhoods to teach their children to run away from the police instead of going to them for help.
Harris’ forceful performance as a rookie black policewoman struggling to fit in a man’s shoes at the beginning and becoming an agent of change at the end of is another highlight. The happy ending of “Black and Blue” brings hope to real-life issues that otherwise are overwhelming and even depressing.
West’s striving to “make a difference” in the constitutional criminal justice system may come off naive and cliche. Yet her objective pinpoints exactly what the law enforcement in America is in dire need of, lawmen who stick to their moral values and use their authority rightfully to serve the public.
At 108 minutes, “Black and Blue” certainly satisfies a group of audience goers with an on-point inner-city setting, epic music, sharp dialogues, and slick actions. The visual is stunning and transitions are smooth and clean.
On the downside, supporting roles such as Missy, Milo and West’s closest partner (Reid Scott) are underdeveloped, making their moral decisions unnecessarily baffling.
The screenplay could be more convincing if it adds the element of surprise and digs a little deeper into West’s complicated background that forces her to join the military at 17 and the unusual link between the head crooked cop Terry Malone (Frank Grillo) and the gang leader (Mike Colter).
With heart-throbbing gunshots and car chases, “Black and Blue” is overall an easy and entertaining watch, best for a night out with friends.
Still, for those waiting for a strong story that represents the underrepresented and brings social ills to light, “Black and Blue” falls short of expectations.
Via Screen Gems
After capturing an execution by three police officers, rookie policewoman (Naomi Harris) goes on the run to expose the misdeed.