Black and Blue (3 stars)

Black and Blue

Cliched cop thriller starring Naomie Harris that's elevated by anger and empathy

A rookie cop becomes the centre of a racially-charged storm in this incendiary action thriller from Deon Taylor (The Intruder). Diverging from its otherwise quite commercial, sometimes crass tendencies, Black and Blue delivers a sustained and savage attack on an institutionally racist police force. With diligent work from Naomie Harris as the officer in question and a righteous regard for neglected communities, it's elevated and energised by its empathy and anger.

Harris plays Alicia West, a recently qualified officer returning to New Orleans after an extended period of absence, including two tours of duty in Afghanistan. This former juvenile offender knows the streets she now patrols and is committed to building bridges between the black community and the boys (and girls) in blue, despite disinterest from both sides.

However, when she witnesses corrupt narcs, led by Frank Grillo's Terry Malone, assassinate a trio of young drug dealers – an incident caught on her body cam – Alicia is forced into hiding in her old neighbourhood. Framed as the perpetrator, she's hunted by the police and her former community, with Mike Colter's ferocious criminal kingpin Darius leading the civilian charge. The only way to clear her name is to fight her way out.

Although there are explosions of exciting action and suspenseful hide-and-seeks, this lacks the properly immersive, you-are-there camerawork of the similar End of Watch, but Alicia's personal connection to the area and the hostilities between 'black' and 'blue' make for an interesting conflict.

British screenwriter Peter A Dowling (who co-wrote high-flying hokum Flightplan, starring Jodie Foster) doesn't show any great insight or subtlety but he captures a sense of fear and frustration that's further enhanced by the lead performances. Harris is believably gutsy, isolated and torn and Tyrese Gibson (best known as the Fast & Furious franchise's resident wisecracker) is a credibly conflicted sidekick as Milo 'Mouse' Jackson; a scene where Mouse calls the police for help, only to be manhandled and humiliated by bully boy officers adds a note of quiet pathos.

Given the film's compassion for those left to make their own rules, the cartoon villains are jarring (both Grillo and Colter have done excellent work elsewhere, in The Purge: Anarchy and Luke Cage respectively), while Taylor is certainly no stranger to cliches. Nevertheless, context matters and it's hard not to care as Black and Blue takes a Fugitive-style thriller and drops it into a simmering pot of racial tension.

General release from Fri 25 Oct.

Black and Blue

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 1h 48min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Deon Taylor
  • Cast: Mike Colter, Naomie Harris, Frank Grillo
  • UK release: 25 October 2019

Alicia (Harris) is a recently qualified police officer returning to New Orleans after serving two tours of duty in the military in Afghanistan; she’s then framed for murder by corrupt narcs. Harris is believably gutsy and isolated and while it’s not exactly subtle, it’s an effective Fugitive -style thriller with a…