When Andre’s a kid, his father, a cop, is gunned down. The funeral feels a lot like a super hero origin story; the pastor even quotes a bible verse that sounds a lot like a Tony Stark sign up sheet: “If you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” So being a cop is not a choice for Andre, it’s in his DNA, or so he tells the review board who are wondering why he shoots so many suspects. “None without just cause,” he tells them. But he’s about to learn a thing or two about just cause.
That night, two men hit up a business looking to steal a little coke. Turns out, it’s a lot of coke. Mike thinks they should walk away, but Ray insists they carry on. Mike was probably right, even before they’re interrupted by cops. The deal’s gone sour very quickly, and when they flee with 50kg of pure cocaine, they leave behind the bodies of 7 police officers. Detective Andre (Chadwick Boseman) is on the case, and local precinct captain (JK Simmons) doesn’t so much imply as order him to find “just cause,” and quick. Andre orders the island of Manhattan to be shut down, all 21 bridges, while he and partner Frankie (Sienna Miller) hunt their suspects.
At this point, Ray (Taylor Kitsch) and Mike (Stephan James) know they’re pretty much fucked, but with cops one step ahead of them, they begin to realize that this is way bigger than a mere $6M in stolen coke.
Trigger warning: this is a rough film if you’re feeling traumatized by law enforcement right now. No-knock warrants, corrupt cops, and someone in police custody literally saying “I can’t breathe.” It’s a cliche for a reason: these things really do happen this often.
But as much as I like seeing J. Jonah Jameson and Black Panther hanging out in New York City, this film could probably use a little Spider-man. It could use a little something, anyway; a little something to believe in might have been nice. 21 Bridges is a competent action crime drama, and Chadwick Boseman is a solid leading man, but the film just never quite takes a stance, and in the face of this much filth, you kind of need it to.