Black and Blue (2019)

Movie Info

Movie Info

Run Time
1 hour and 48 minutes

VP Content Ratings

Sex & Nudity
Star Rating
★★★★4 out of 5

Relevant Quotes

For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.

John 3:20
Alicia is almost alone with so many out to kill her, & most 9th Ward citizens spurning her.     (c) Screen Gems

Director Deon Taylor and screenwriter Peter A. Dowling are not describing body bruises in their film title, though there are plenty of them inflicted in this action-packed thriller, but rather the experience of a black female experiencing the tension of working in a blue (cop) world. Although this is primarily a crime/action movie, it has many scenes that offer grim, social justice-based, commentary on the soured relation of many police departments with the black populace they supposedly protect. Indeed, the opening scene features Naomie Harris, who played Winnie Mandela in Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom, as Alicia West out jogging when she is stopped by two white cops who dis her until they learn she also is a cop.

Alicia is a rookie New Orleans officer just back from two tours in Afghanistan. She is about to learn that she is still operating in a war zone in the neighborhood where she grew up, New Orleans’ impoverished Ward 9 that is just as dangerous as Kandahar was. She naively thinks that her good will toward the black inhabitants will lead to their accepting her: what a jolt she is about to experience! When she runs across childhood friend Missy (Nafessa Williams), the hostile young woman refuses to recognize her.

Partnered with the white Kevin (Reid Scott), Alicia volunteers to take an over-time shift assigned to him because he has family plans. She is sent out in a patrol car with fellow black officer Deacon Brown (James Moses Black), who does not hide his resentment of her presence. Brown stops outside an old abandoned industrial building and orders Alicia to stay in the car. She hears shots and rushes into the building, where, on its second floor she sees Brown standing by as a white man shoots three kneling blacks. Brown is horrified because he sees that body camera attached to Alicia’s bullet-proof vest is turned on. The man shoots Alicia, but her body falls through the deteriorated floor to a pile of debris below. The thug sent to check on her body discovers that she is alive and fleeing. She is wounded in the leg, but the vest protected her torso.

The rest of the film chronicles Alicia’s attempt to get back alive to her precinct with the video of the murders. Given her situation, the odds are stacked against her. The patrol car she stops turns out to be manned by cops in league with the murderer. And the murderer is a cop, narcotics undercover officer Terry Malone (Frank Grillo). Soon other cops have driven into the area to join Malone’s search for her. She knocks on several doors in the hope of using a telephone, but every one looks at her with disdain. Dressed in blue, she is one of “them.” This confirms what officer Deacon Brown had told her earlier, “WE are your people. You’re blue, now.” As if it is not bad enough to have the band of rogue cops trying to killer, the local crime boss Darius (Mike Colter), whose nephew was one of the three murdered, is told that she is the killer, so he and his thugs are also pursuing her.

Alicia’s only hope turns out to be another childhood friend, Milo” Mouse” Jackson (Tyrese Gibson), who runs the local grocery store. At first, he would prefer to send her away from his store, but reluctantly partners with her. There are lots of chases and narrow escapes ahead ending with a nice twist. When it seems the vastly outnumbered pair are about to be overwhelmed, Alicia comes up with a bold, daring plan that requires every ounce of courage she can muster—and that none of her would-be killers could imagine.

Conservatives have attacked this film as a propagandist liberal rant against police. The article I read omitted the long string of white cops shooting unarmed black males, accounts of which can easily be found on Google, that form the backdrop of the script. This film shows the situation is more complex in that black officers like Brown are also part of the corrupt ring of cops—and that under pressure a black man can be forced to go along with the prevailing racist culture.

The filmmakers walk a thin line between a rousing action shoot em up thriller and a social justice tale. Poor Alicia has stumbled upon a den of creatures who prefer darkness because of their evil deeds and will do anything to prevent her from delivering to the authorities the camera that shines a spotlight on them. This film, may be beneath the level of Sidney Lumet’s great Prince of the City, but it will do until you can find a copy of that classic—and it certainly keeps up with the headlines that disprove the belief of some that we are living in a post-racial society.

This review will be in the November issue of VP along with a set of questions for reflection and/or discussion. If you have found reviews on this site helpful, please consider purchasing a subscription or individual issue in The Store.

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