16 Blocks stars Bruce Willis plays Detective Jack Mosley, a worn-out cop with an alcohol problem and the title comes from the fact that he’s got just 118 minutes (not in real time, before you think I’ve mistyped the figure above) to drive a criminal from the lock-up to court which is a journey of 16 blocks across New York… but you know it won’t be as straight-forward as that otherwise they wouldn’t have made a film about it.
All that said, Jack’s been working all night and has been pulled onto this job at the last minute so just wants it over and done with and then he can go home.
Mos Def – yes, he who was totally miscast as Ford Prefect in the movie version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy plays the prisoner, Eddie Bunker, and a chatty one he is at that, which only serves to drive Jack up the wall all the more.
What starts off as a simple job, soon becomes a double-crossing nightmare for a man who’s really had enough of the shit that life can throw you and there are fellow policemen, including Detective Frank Nugent (David Morse, who’s always worth a watch), who’d be only too happy to see Jack piss what’s left of his career up the wall so they can get rid of him and so he’s determined to prove them wrong – and moreso than you’d realise, but there’s a few moments on both sides where they each turn up or get one over on the other that doesn’t really make sense when looked at again, but in reality it’s not the kind of film you’re meant to over-analyse.
The only shame is that there’s not much characterisation made of any of the supporting cast, or their acting abilities stretched, including David Zayas, as Det. Robert Torres, although Zayas is currently having his profile raised in the excellent TV series Dexter, the first series of which is showing on ITV as I type, with series two starting on FX in July.
One random observation: There’s one moment where you can hear David Morse shouting at to his captain, just over an hour in, but someone else has overdubbed his voice, which was rather odd.
Overall, 16 Blocks makes for a great thriller on a number of levels, and is a good tale about redemption. Also, Jack Mosley makes for what could possibly be John McClane, his classic Die Hard character, had he taken a few too many wrong turns following his classic escapades.
The film is presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen with no problems whatsoever and with director Richard Donner framing some great visual across the full width of the frame which couldn’t be cropped and still make sense – although the Super 35 filming process may make for an easier-on-the-eye 16:9 print. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundmix also brings in some brilliant moments where gunfire plays a part, but for the majority of the time it’s the drama rather than the sound effects that takes centre-stage.
The extras begin with Deleted Scenes (19:50), with commentary from director Richard Donner and screenwriter Richard Wenk. Note how I didn’t say ‘optional commentary’, because they just waffle over the top of them after an introduction. There’s no chaptering or titles to say quickly what these scenes should be from. They’re also in letterbox, not anamorphic, and with clips of the pair talking over them. This is precisely not the way to do deleted scenes, and as such I turned off before too long.
They also rear their ugly heads for the Alternate Ending (6:37), but thankfully not the Theatrical Trailer (2:13), which is in anamorphic widescreeen. It turns out the alternate ending here was the originally-planned ending, but while it’s good to see it for comparison, on balance I think the one they went with was the right one.
The disc contains 25 chapters which is fine for the running time, but the chapter menu is dumb in the extreme. It harks back to the days when Warner first made DVDs in the late ’90s with less selections than there should be. For example, rather than individually selectable chapters, it starts with “1-2”, then “3-4”, all the way up to “23-25” for the last 3, but these just select 1, 3 and 23, respectively… (a) skimping on doing it properly and (b) assuming that we don’t know that 2 follows 1, 4 follows 3, and 24 and 25 follow 23(!)
There are subtitles in English and German, both with ‘hard of hearing’ versions and the main menu plays the theme music a couple of times before starting the film. Stupidly, though, this DVD has got one of those anti-piracy ads at the start (I’ve bought this DVD!) and pre-menu trailers for Poseidon and Superman Returns, but these should NOT be placed there.
Running time: 98 minutes
Studio: Warner Home Video
Released: August 21st 2006
Region(s): 2, PAL
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages: English, German
Subtitles: 5 languages available
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Super 35)
Disc Format: DVD 9
Director: Richard Donner
Producers: Randall Emmett, Avi Lerner, Arnold Rifkin, John Thompson and Jim Van Wyck
Screenplay: Richard Wenk
Music: Klaus Badelt
Det. Jack Mosley: Bruce Willis
Eddie Bunker: Mos Def
Det. Frank Nugent: David Morse
Diane Mosley: Jenna Stern
Capt. Dan Gruber: Casey Sander
Det. Jimmy Mulvey: Cylk Cozart
Det. Robert Torres: David Zayas
Det. Jerry Shue: Robert Racki
ADA MacDonald: Brenda Pressley
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.