Making the Grades
If you believe what you see in 16 Blocks, corrupt cops in New York's downtown core are as common as noodles in Chinatown. And all of those men are intent on stopping Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) from testifying against them.
In contrast to the calculating policemen, Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) is dead weight--an out-of-shape alcoholic has-been detective with a gimpy leg. He spends a good deal of his time in a booze-induced stupor and his last big assignment was babysitting a couple of dead bodies in an apartment until the boys in blue arrived to clean up the mess. Trying to get home for a rendezvous with his bottle, Jack doesn't have a clue about the drama he'll face when he is coerced into transporting the yappy, young Eddie to a courthouse hearing.
However, the grizzled detective's drunken daze seems to vanish when shots start flying on the street from undercover agents assigned by their superiors to dispose of Eddie. It seems the small time felon has inadvertently witnessed an unscrupulous business transaction involving several of the officers. Rather than let him interfere with their form of justice, they plan to permanently postpone Eddie's day in court. With sudden, uncanny clarity, Jack realizes he can either side with his crooked ex partner (David Morse) and hand over the kid or literally fight his way to the inquiry.
Setting up his scenes in the crowded streets of New York, Director Richard Donner keeps the reins on this production by mixing tense, action-packed scenarios with moments of quiet desperation as the worn-out detective and his nervous sidekick attempt to elude the inevitable. Choosing to skip any sexual content, the movie is riddled instead with high-powered gunfire exchanges between Jack and his fellow officers, resulting in blood-covered bodies and frequent strong expletives. Innocent bystanders are forced into the fray when an inner-city apartment is stormed by a SWAT team and later when a bus full of passengers is hijacked. Depicting corruption in nearly every level of law enforcement, the script, like many others, questions the integrity of authority figures while eliciting empathy for the convicted thug.
Eddie, on the other hand, assaults viewers with his nasally, nonstop chatter and his change of heart that seems conveniently timed to coincide with Jack's own desire to atone for his past. Whether or not you buy into the characters' turnaround, which unfolds in this unlikely buddy movie, the plot offers 105 minutes of intense action.
Unfortunately, the film's aggressive and prolific portrayal of violence leaves the streets strewn with enough spent lead and empty cartridges to also pave all 16 Blocks.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about 16 Blocks.
16 Blocks, there is a role reversal between the good guys and bad guys. How might the film’s portrayal of bad cops affect the way you perceive your local officers? How does the script build sympathy for the young criminal Eddie? Should felons be allowed to go unpunished if they testify against other criminals?
Eddie believes people can change. What appears to cause his change of heart? How difficult is it to overcome mistakes from the past? What other characters in the film reform? Do you think the depictions of these characters are truthful?