Black and Blue may not have been on your radar this week, but it should be. Naomie Harris is great and the story packs an unexpected emotional punch.
Queen and Slim dropped a sleek trailer teasing us with a movie that would go inside the issue of police brutality. While it hasn’t released yet, the trailer arrived before the trailer for Black and Blue so the latter didn’t have the same impact when its trailer released. It was almost immediately the second option for movies about police.
When the credits began to roll on Black and Blue however, I found myself somewhat emotional. We received an amazing performance by Naomie Harris (28 Days Later, Moonlight), a message about policing, and a soundtrack that does its job in setting the mood throughout the movie. Black and Blue takes you inside the complex relationship between police and the black community through the lens of a young vet-turned-cop who wants to make a difference and ends up having to face death to do it.
Black and Blue proved to be much more than an action movie and, while the message may come off as forced at times, you still appreciate the intent.
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Naomie Harris plays officer Alicia West. She’s only been on the job for three weeks but when her partner is asked to pull a double-shift, Alicia steps up to do it for him. He’s a father and was telling her that he had a date night planned with his wife.
Officer West ends up going out with veteran officer Deacon Brown (James Moses Black, This is Us) who tries to indoctrinate her into the precinct culture. While they’re out, he gets a call on his cell and drags her to a remote location. He orders her to stay in the car but when she hears shots fired she enters the building. That’s when she sees something she shouldn’t and her fellow officers decide that she now has to go, or give up her body camera footage and get in line.
From there, West is on the run and ends up in the neighborhood she grew up in. Between the fact that she left the city and the fact that she’s returned as a cop there aren’t many friendly faces here either. She’s caught between the cops and a hard place and her only mission is to survive long enough to get the body camera footage uploaded so she can expose the dirty cops.
I’m aware that Naomie Harris is an Oscar nominated actress but she hasn’t had the opportunity to shine like she did in Black and Blue. She has excelled in supporting roles for a long time but it was great to see her lead in this one.
The tone is set early in the movie that she’s not fully accepted among the police so she’s already fighting that battle. Later she runs into Nafessa Williams’ (Black Lightning) character Missy at a gas station. She tries to speak to her but Missy acts like she doesn’t know officer West. It’s a tough scene and you don’t initially know why this happened (the depth of the relationship is revealed later.) Officer West is clearly fighting with some things and you don’t know if it’s from the job, her past in the city, or her time-serving in Afghanistan. Regardless, West displays this pain without us needing to know the source.
Often in action movies the hero is way too prepared for their world to fall apart and to have to take action. In Black and Blue we see how West slowly realizes how bad her situation is and watch her attitude and approach slowly change with each rejection or revelation as to how deep the issue is. She makes you feel her desperation and that takes talent. The movie lets her fully be overwhelmed emotionally for a brief moment at one point and that’s also rare in these movies. It made her feel real.
Harris deserves all the praise she’s receiving for this role.
The casting in general was great for this film, though I have to admit that seeing Mike Colter transition from a corny Luke Cage to a big-time gangster was a tad bit difficult. I do feel like his character was somewhat wasted but I don’t want to dive too far into that.
Frank Grillo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) playing a dirty cop, after being known by many as Crossbones who was a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent that was secretly part of Hydra, felt too appropriate. Beau Knapp playing his right hand man after being the cop who killed a kid and tried to cover it up in Seven Seconds made his role easy to accept also. Even Tyrese as an ex-con who is trying to stay on the straight and narrow after leaving the Fast and Furious world feels like an easy transition. The only thing missing among the cast were the New Orleans accents.
Top to bottom the casting was great and really makes the world created by the film feel full.
I may be a bit biased here but the music selection for Black and Blue was also great. I went in knowing that one of my favorite artists, 3D Natee, had two songs on the soundtrack but I wasn’t prepared for the music to be strong throughout the movie. I love that a movie filmed in New Orleans reached out to local talent for the soundtrack and didn’t just go with the popular music like most films do. It was a nice touch and truly adds something to the movie.
Black and Blue truly gives you all you could ask for. Great acting, tension from start to finish, emotional content, and something to leave the theater with. While the message it wants to send may not be as strong as it could be, you will at least appreciate the effort.
Black and Blue is currently in theaters nationwide.