`16 Blocks' is a kind of movie you can really only watch once and even at that you'll be correctly guessing what happens next as it goes through loads of familiar developments with a lot of unsubtle foreshadowing. I'm surprised that Richard Donner managed to make a film so tepid because he is really great in doing action/thrillers.
Bruce Willis does what he does best. He plays a downbeat, alcoholic cop who is talked into transporting a witness Mos Def to the courthouse to testify against dirty cops. Mos Def delivers an outstanding performance in this movie, but there are times he would drive you crazy due to his constant rambling, but he does adds a lot of depth to his character and to the movie as a whole. In return, the viewers are able to sympathize with him.
Since the film runs 102 minutes and they have 118 minutes to get to the courthouse, it's not strictly in real time. But it did very much remind me of `Phone Booth' in terms of brisk pacing and bustling New York backdrop. A suspension of disbelief is seriously required as a few completely implausible things happen regarding this movie. There are really clever twists and thoughtful turns, but, when push comes to shove, there's nothing better in this film than ones that Bruce has done many times before. And we've seen him in more dire straits than these.
Thankfully both main actors stay into character, so that the unexpected ending fits into the movie without jarring the mood of the piece. The mood is just like Willis's character: dark, weary, and dispassionate. It is, in the end, a movie that focuses on character rather than action. Just when I thought that the movie was going to have me accepting the epiphany as a typical Hollywood cliché, it offers an explanation that is quite believable.