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Black and Blue


Stars: Naomie Harris, Tyrese Gibson, Frank Grillo, Reid Scott, James Moses Black, Beau Knapp, Mike Colter, Nafessa Williams

Director: Deon Taylor

Poor Naomie Harris. As rookie cop Alicia West, everyone is out to get her. Corrupt cops - half the precinct, it seems - are after her and her bodycam - and what's on it. The bad guys want her for killing one of their own (she didn't) and my God a whole Swat squad is hunting her down with orders to kill.

Everyone, it seems, has a finger in a very crooked pie in this New Orleans district, and Naomie's chances of survival are a thousand to one against.

The film pins its credentials on its sleeve from scene one: Naomie's newbie officer is hauled away from her jogging and slammed up against railings by two of the many corrupt white cops (there's a black one too, to level things up) before they find out that she's a 'blue' too.

She then volunteers to take a night shift to help her family-minded partner (Scott) and drives off with the bent black officer (Black). They stop at a warehouse and Naomie is told to stay in the car. She doesn't, of course, or we wouldn't have a film, and soon barges in on a drug deal gone sour, with her temporary partner and two narco cops, one of whom, Malone (Grillo) has killed two dealers and shoots a third before her eyes, all captured on her bodycam.

She herself is shot in the side, but manages to escape. Whichever way she runs, however, help us not at hand. It seems that everybody is in on it - and they all want her dead.

She glues the wound together (really?) - although it looks more like a stab wound than a bullet hole - and enlists the reluctant help of an old acquaintance, Mouse (Gibson) - a name pinched from the crime novels of Walter Mosley.

It would perhaps be uncharitable to suggest than Naomie is a little mature at 42 to be playing a rookie, though the script goes some way to justifying this by having had her character previously serve two terms in Iraq. Still, she gives a gritty performance, and does the action stuff very well, if admittedly with the help of some tight editing, while in-your-face melodrama is exploding all around her.

All in all, this is hardly a reasoned exposure of the system, although even director Taylor might admit the near-hysterical whooping and cheering from a largely black preview audience every time a white villain had his guts beaten out by a black character was perhaps not quite the reaction he intended. But then his film is more likely to stir up reverse racial hatred than expose it.

One of the white badmen, however, does manage to get up and carry on after being beaten countless times by Naomie with an iron bar. What a guy! Bet he's black and blue.

David Quinlan

USA 2019. UK Distributor: Sony (Screen Gems). Colour by Company 3.
107 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 1, Swearing 1.

Review date: 21 Oct 2019