By Leah Greenblatt
October 25, 2019 at 04:07 PM EDT

Black and Blue (2019 movie)

  • Movie

There aren’t many shades of gray in Black and Blue; hardly any shades at all, really. But as an instrument of blunt-force thrills and social messaging, Deon Taylor’s rogue-cop drama still manages to land more visceral hits than other recent films that have tried and failed to do the same.

A lot of that rests on the firm-set shoulders of Oscar-nominated British actress Naomie Harris (Moonlight, Skyfall) who stars as Alicia West, a New Orleans rookie only a few weeks in uniform and not much longer out of two tours in Afghanistan. Pulling a double with a senior officer she hardly knows, she walks in on a bad deal in an abandoned warehouse and witnesses a triple homicide — committed by two dirty cops who immediately clock her switched-on bodycam.

Credit: Alan Markfield/Screen Gems

That’s when Blue goes on the lam nearly in real time, as a wounded and reeling Alicia runs to the only safe person she knows: an old acquaintance named Milo “Mouse” Jackson (Tyrese Gibson), who works at a grocery store in a part of the city the NOPD essentially surrounded with yellow hazard tape and abandoned long ago. They hardly know each other, and he’s hardly in a position to help, but there’s never really any doubt that she’ll be doomed without him.

Nearly everyone on the force, it seems, wants her dead; so does the furious drug lord (Luke Cage’s Mike Colter) who believes she’s the one responsible for killing his nephew. And even though she was born and raised right there in the Ninth Ward, the only thing her onetime friends and neighbors see when they look at her is a traitor with a badge.

Supporting characters — including Veep’s Reid Scott as her hapless partner and Frank Grillo as an undercover officer so poisonously corrupt he’s practically human hazmat — win no awards for subtlety, and neither will the script’s caps-locked racial politics.

But Taylor (The Intruder, Meet the Blacks) maintains a sort of raw velocity, hurtling through the plot’s requisite bloody showdowns and big speeches with effectively bruising style. And Harris, eyes blazing, brings a humanity and an urgency that serve the story maybe more than it deserves: a performance above and beyond the call of duty. B

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Black and Blue (2019 movie)

  • Movie
  • Deon Taylor