Lowdown: Salvation through a ride in downtown New York.
Richard Donner is one of those directors that had lots of money on their hands but never really delivers the punch. His Superman films were OK, I guess, and the Lethal Weapons were good to even excellent, but none left you saying "wow, this director must be hot". With 16 Blocks Donner has at his disposal a big time action hero, Bruce Willis, doing another policeman's story; does Donner waste this precious resource yet again and create another mediocre film? Does he exceed his Lethal Weapons' performances?
16 Blocks tells the story of a tired old New York policeman, Bruce Willis. The plot seems to be in real time or sort of, so we get to watch an hour and a half or so in Willis' life (plus a retrospective ending). It's really nothing we haven't seen before: Willis is just about to go home and get himself drunk when he is asked to take this guy who is under arrest to court, 16 blocks away, so that he can testify. Nothing to it; Bruce accepts the assignments reluctantly. Is Willis in for a surprise when it turns out that the guy is about to testify against corrupt policemen and he finds himself hunted by all of his friend! At first he contemplates ignoring the guy's plight and letting the police get rid of him, but quickly enough he changes his mind and fights to get him to court through 16 blocks of hell.
16 Blocks delivers action aplenty but really nothing we haven't seen before; it's main draw card is that the action takes place in downtown New York. There is not much more to this film than the action, which is pretty entertaining yet pretty shallow, too. Still, there is an obvious attempt by Donner to portray Willis as a hero of biblical proportions: religious symbols everywhere are there to tell you that while Willis is saving the other guy he is actually saving himself, redeeming himself from the corrupt and inactive person he used to be to stand up for what is right. Problem is, as exciting as this might be, it is pretty shallowly done, as if the director thought "ooh, I'll stick a cross to the wall in scene X to add some depth to the film".
Aside of the shallowness and the imposed symbolism, the film suffers from Willis himself. It goes on to prove that Willis is a pretty limited actor: his shticks make the hero of 16 Blocks look like John McClane with a bad haircut; there's hardly anything to separate the two. As the film progresses it becomes obvious Willis is not going to take the character any further than his usual gestures and stares.
Still, after all is said and done, 16 Blocks is an entertaining Lethal Weapon like film set with an older lead and a significantly less funnier plot. We even get a white guy / black guy pair in the lead, but the outcome is not as good as the Lethal Weapons; maybe Donner is getting too old for this shit?
Interesting scene: I have found the way Willis is introduced at the beginning of the film as a tired guy who can't be bothered with living to be interesting. Not because it was so good, but rather because it was something we've seen so many times before in other movies or even TV stuff.
Picture quality: Good.
Sound quality: Very aggressive (and loud) envelopment, which is good, but lacking in detail.
Overall: Fun to watch but nothing more than that; a typical Donner film. 2.5 out of 5 stars.