Occasionally there comes a loosely categorised action movie that is less about the action and effects and more about the story, even if it is a bit on the sentimental side. '16 Blocks', helmed by 'Lethal Weapon' director Richard Donner, is about the comedy and the characters before it is about the car chases and shoot-outs - and to its benefit.
Detective Jack Mosley (Willis) has done one too many days on the job. Driven to drink, pretty much alone in life and weary of being assigned menial tasks at work (mostly because he turns up drunk), he can't wait to clock off each day. But one particular day, when he is forced to take on another mundane assignment, he sees how the force is about to change.
Mosley is given the job of transporting witness Eddie Bunker (Def) from his prison cell to the courthouse, where he is due to give evidence, 16 blocks away. But that trip becomes one of the longest Mosley has ever made as he is forced to make some tough decisions and examine his own moral conscience along the way (not always as preachy as it sounds, though).
His prisoner Eddie is about to give evidence that will blow the lid on some of the most crooked cops in New York, an influential group that Mosley was once part of but no longer subscribes to; partly because he doesn't care much for the politics of the job anymore, but mostly because he doesn't seem to feel at ease with watching innocent people pay the price for police mistakes. Not everyone shares his sense of moral obligation to the people he serves, though, and those who feel differently will stop at nothing to destroy all evidence of their own wrongdoing.
Willis is very much in his comfort zone here, playing the fallen, yet well-intentioned, hero with precision and wonderfully roughed up for the part of the ageing, weary and alcohol-driven cop. But it is rap star Mos Def, however, that steals most of the scenes as the yappy petty criminal with an opinion on everything. His dragged-out delivery of his one-liners contrasts perfectly with the sense of urgency that should surround their getaway attempt – with his well-played insecurities making it all the more believable that Mosley feels such a sense of duty to protect this guy who has a dream (to become a novelty cake baker, by the way!).
A buddy movie with a difference, '16 Blocks' is a witty and quick-moving (even if relatively uneventful) film. Sure, it can get slightly mawkish at times but it's also very funny.