Black and Blue Parent Guide
A tense, thoughtful drama with unflinching integrity at its heart...and a lot of blood.
Parent Movie Review
Rookie police officer Alicia West (Naomie Harris) is in her third week with the New Orleans Police Department when she lets herself get roped into a double shift. Ignoring her temporary partner’s order to stay in the police car, the African-American officer witnesses the cold-blooded murder of a young man by another cop, Terry Malone (Frank Grillo). West’s body camera contains filmed evidence against Malone and, by implication, every NOPD officer entangled in his web of corruption, which makes her Target Number One in a blood-soaked cat-and-mouse game played out across New Orleans’ Ninth Ward.
Black and Blue is a more thoughtful film than I expected. Early on, West’s partner, Kevin Jennings (Reid Scott), tells her that she’s going to have to pick sides. Black or blue? African-American or cop? To its credit, the script moves beyond simple racial conflict, although there’s plenty of that and the racism of the white police officers is not glossed over. But there is so much violence - black on black and cop on cop - that the movie’s title might just refer to the bruised, beaten and bloody corpses that pile up throughout the movie’s nearly two hour runtime. West herself insists that there is no false dichotomy between her two identities – black woman and police officer – and she makes a passionate plea for seeing people just as people struggling to make the best of their lives.
Alicia West’s character, performed with understated grit by Naomie Harris, is the best reason to watch this movie. Down-to-earth, determined, filled with raw courage and unbreakable integrity, she is the living embodiment of the kind of positive messages parents want their teens to absorb from media. She knows that her body camera makes her a target. And she knows that sharing the footage will mark her as a snitch and possibly destroy her career. Nevertheless, her sense of duty and morality will not allow her to make any other choice. Thankfully, Harris’s fine portrayal of Alicia West is matched by the rest of the cast. Frank Grillo plays Malone with a slightly unhinged menace and Tyrese Gibson gives Mouse Jackson a weary dignity. The able performances are well supported by an ominous, percussive soundtrack that ratchets up the almost unbearable tension to an even higher level. This is not a movie anyone is going to sleep through.
The positive messages of Black and Blue are counterbalanced by some significant content issues, including close to four dozen profanities and extensive violence. There are near-constant gun battles and frequent scenes of punching, kicking, choking, and body-slamming. I lost count of the number of dead bodies somewhere in the early double digits. Given the storyline, however, both the language and violence are pretty accurate, and even somewhat sanitized. Real automatic weapons definitely make a bloodier mess than anything seen in this film.
Given the violence, this is not a movie for kids or most teens. But adults and older teens who like cop shows and enjoy discussing issues of criminal justice, race, and ethics will appreciate this tense, thoughtful drama and the unflinching integrity at its heart.Directed by Deon Taylor. Starring Naomie Harris, Tyrese Gibson, and Frank Grillo.. Running time: 108 minutes. Theatrical release October 25, 2019. Updated October 25, 2019
Watch the trailer for Black and Blue
Black and Blue
Rating & Content Info
Why is Black and Blue rated R? Black and Blue is rated R by the MPAA for violence and language.
Violence: There are countless scenes of gun violence: guns are pointed at people, held to their heads, and shot. I lost count of the number of people shot dead on screen, but it is well into the double digits. There are also multiple scenes of physical violence in which people are punched, hit, choked, thrown into walls, and slammed against cars. People are injured in firefights; some blood is seen. An injured woman is hunted. A woman glues her bullet wound closed; some blood is visible. A main character rams a car with a truck. Doors are frequently kicked open. There is a scene of torture where a man is suspended from a ceiling and repeatedly beaten. A woman is beaten and thrown into walls. A man is repeatedly hit with a nail-studded board and then with a metal rod.
Sexual Content: None noted.
Profanity: There are approximately four dozen profanities and vulgar terms in this movie, including three sexual expletives, repeated uses of a vulgar term for women, three terms of deity, and multiple uses of scatological and anatomical words. A racial epithet is used on two occasions.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Drug dealing is mentioned in the film but no drugs are seen or used.
Page last updated October 25, 2019
Black and Blue Parents' Guide
Alicia West makes a decision that seemed likely to lead to her death at the hands of the corrupt cops or drug dealers. Why do you think she did that rather than simply handing over her body camera? Is there any principle you feel so strongly about that you would be willing to risk your life for it?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
What leads some people to take terrible risks to do the right thing? Eyal Press’s Beautiful Souls is an exploration of whistleblowers and others who have taken a stand at great personal cost.
At the beginning of the film, Alicia West finds herself slammed into a fence by cops who don’t know she is also a police officer. Sadly, this isn’t an isolated experience. For a detailed look at racial bias within police forces, check out Matthew Horace’s The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement.
Busted: A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly Love by Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker is the real life story of the biggest police corruption scandal in Philadelphia, one involving a narcotics squad which became just as dangerous and drug dealers it was supposedly investigating.
In They Wished They Were Honest: The Knapp Commission and New York City Police Corruption, author and lawyer Michael F Armstrong gives an inside look at investigating and prosecuting bad apples in the NYPD.
Related home video titles:
The Hate U Giveexplores complex issues around police shootings of African Americans.
For a movie about another whistleblower, this one in a corporate environment, check out Matt Damon in The Informant.
An FBI Agent is involved in unmasking a foreign asset within their ranks in Breach. An interpreter shares what she has overheard about an assassination plot. She is treated as a suspect in The Interpreter. And in a real-life story, a counterintelligence translator becomes a whistleblower when she realizes the British government is lying to voters in Official Secrets.