While walking out of the Studio Movie Grill in Seminole, Florida, after watching Black and Blue, my girlfriend asked about the ribs I had consumed while watching the film. I kind of shrugged my shoulders and remarked on their average-ness. They were fine. She very wisely pointed out that was a lot like the movie. Yep!
Like any action film, Black and Blue contains moments that will get your heart racing and the other times that leaves you wondering what the heck is going on. After all, having a non-stop thrill ride, as some catchy bullet reviews say of action flicks, ultimately ends up being boring. You need a story, and at times the decisions made by the characters will contravene what a person might logically do when put in danger in order to service the story. Yet this film has something else going for it: racial lines. Thus when the the characters come to some sort of decision as to what to do next, their choices are informed by which side they sit on as to the divide between black and blue. . . . Get it?
So how does Black and Blue navigate the minefield of where the main character’s, Alicia West (Naomie Harris), loyalties should lie? As a rookie cop and a veteran of the War on Terror in Afghanistan, but also as an African American from the same streets which she was tasked to patrol, the answer would seem muddled. Set in New Orleans, the film takes pains to show that society (mostly white police officers) view her as black, but those who remember her from her neighborhood see her as blue. Thus when she witnesses narcotics officers coldly murdering gang members, an act she captures with her body camera, she finds herself seemingly alone.
The McGuffin in Black and Blue is the body camera that records the crimes committed by the narcotics officers, led by Terry Malone (Frank Grillo). Not only does it capture the shooting, but it also shows that this act was part of a vast conspiracy of New Orleans police officers to fleece drug dealers. It involved not only those specifically tasked with combatting the flow of drugs, but also many of the regular patrolmen. The police also mislead the gang leader Darius (Mike Colter) into believing West was behind the killing of his nephew. As a result, our hero must dodge not only her fellow officers, but an entire neighborhood of people she once knew in order to get the evidence to her precinct.
Okay, that is enough summation of Black and Blue’s plot. You get the idea. The problem with the film was the very shallow, one dimensional nature of the characters, both good and bad. The villains were, as the saying goes, mustache twirlers, and West was virtuous. Actually, my Catholic sensibilities loved West’s devotion to doing the right thing no matter the risk to life and limb, but outside of her background and job, that was all we knew about her. Several times she was offered a way out of her predicament that anyone would have been tempted to take, but would not have resulted in justice being done. I would like to say I would do the same thing in her shoes, but thank God I do not have to make such decisions.
Hooray for happy endings, and Black and Blue does deliver in that department. Along the way, though, the shallowness of the characters and their motivations made it all too predictable. I will grant that the racial angle made it somewhat more interesting than your run-of-the-mill action flick, but it did not have anything too earth-shattering to say on the subject. The solution to racism is to rise above the categories that racism places people in. If you did not know that going into this film, then I would suggest a bit of reading, if nothing else.