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Movie Review

16 Blocks

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, intense sequences of action, and some strong language

Reviewed by: Bob Rossiter

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults, Teens
Action, Adventure, Crime, Drama, Thriller
1 hr. 45 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
March 3, 2006 (wide)
Copyright, Warner Bros.
Copyright, Warner Bros.
Copyright, Warner Bros.
Copyright, Warner Bros.
Copyright, Warner Bros.
Copyright, Warner Bros.
Copyright, Warner Bros.
Copyright, Warner Bros.
Copyright, Warner Bros.
Copyright, Warner Bros.
Relevant Issues
Featuring: Bruce Willis, Mos Def, David Sparrow
Director: Richard Donner (The Goonies / Lethal Weapon / Lethal Weapon 4)
Producer: Randall Emmett, Avi Lerner, Arnold Rifkin, John Thompson, Jim Van Wyck, Bruce Willis, Glen MacPherson
Distributor: Warner Bros.

“For a New York cop and his witness, the distance between life and death just got very short.”

“16 Blocks” is an interesting mixture of two extremes. The action is a typical Hollywood-style, Bruce Willis movie. The old, road-weary cop finds a cause to defend and attempts to see it through to the end with lots of drinking, cussing and shooting along the way. Some of the themes and characterizations, however, almost seem like modern day parables of Biblical principles.

Bruce Willis plays Jack Mosley, an old, out of shape, New York City cop who has a serious drinking problem. He’s been to detox twice, and his coworkers have given up on him ever changing. They just keep him supplied with breath mints to hide his alcoholism from their superiors and the public.

Jack is assigned to transport Eddie Bunker (Mos Def), a small-time crook turned informant, from the jail to the courthouse. This would normally be an easy 16 block trip, but this is no ordinary day, and the people he is testifying against aren’t just the usual bad guys; they are some of the most influential officers of the 14th precinct.

After the first attempt on Eddie’s life, Jack finds out what he’s up against and has to decide who he will side with—his friends and coworkers, or a low-life like Eddie. His decision sets up a cat and mouse chase that lasts throughout the movie. Jack and Eddie try to stay one step ahead of the dirty cops while they inch their way to the courthouse.

Time and again through the movie I was reminded of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for me and others who have accepted Him as their savior. There is nothing about Eddie that makes him worth sacrificing one’s life for, but Jack does just that. Early in the film Jack and Eddie are in a room with at least four other officers that want Eddie dead. Jack shoots one policeman to save Eddie’s life, then holds the rest at gunpoint while he and Eddie escape.

Another time, Jack hijacks a city bus and then helps Eddie escape with the other passengers as cover. When the police find out Jack is in the bus by himself they prepare to storm it and assassinate him. Eddie sees what is about to happen and puts himself in the line of fire to stop the officers, then Jack and Eddie take off with the bus and escape. Eddie’s willingness to help his new friend is a perfect illustration of what Jesus said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (NKJV).

One other important theme encouraged in the movie was the importance of truth. I won’t give all the details because it would require revealing a spoiler, but I will say that Jack came to have a new appreciation for truth. As a matter of fact, he puts his life on the line in the final scene, not for Eddie, but because he wants to stand up for the truth.

In spite of these great themes, other factors drop the moral quality of “16 Blocks” to below average. There was no sex/nudity, but there were more than 30 uses of foul language. The f* word was spoken two or three times, and God’s name was misused five times. The rest were moderate obscenities.

There was also enough drinking, lying, deception and blood to keep the movie off the recommended list. The shootings aren’t gory, but both Jack and Eddie walk around in a few scenes with blood on their hands and shirts from being shot.

I will say that those who enjoy Bruce Willis movies will probably like this one as well. I do encourage you to take the PG-13 rating seriously. Young teens and children may have a difficult time distinguishing between the positive themes the moviemakers were encouraging and the raw action they used.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive—Very well balanced. Great acting and somewhat familiar storyline. Suprisingly, I had a hard time noticing foul language—which was very few. That I find excellent. Story is good, action good and moral story good. Go watch it. At least 11 and above is minimum age.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Peter, age 22
Positive—My husband and I saw this movie the other night and weren’t sure what to expect. I just knew I was a fan of Bruce Willis and his other action films, etc. I really enjoyed this film. It displayed how Bruce’s character, a tired out cop, with a drinking problem, a past shady work ethic, just wants to get this errand done so he can go home—only to find himself in a situation where he must make a moral decision. To do or not to do the right thing. To make right what was wrong.

I won’t share any more spoilers, but just to say that it was nice to see the right thing done. I enjoyed the character of “Eddy” as well; he brought some light humor to the serious story. I believe the key phrase to this movie is “People can change.” As a believer, I know change is possible, by the grace of God, not in my own strength. I can rest that God who began a good work in me will complete that; God is the refiner, the molder, the pruner. Will we by faith respond? Very good movie!
My Ratings: Average / 3
—Shana, age 33
Positive—“16 Blocks” is based upon the classic Clint Eastwood movie, The Gauntlet, and actually does a very good job with transferring the mode into the urban inner city. “16 Blocks” is the latest Richard Donner action movie starring Bruce Willis who plays the down and out cop who has been given a simple task. Deliver the witness to the court house, 16 blocks away. However, this is not so simple with a plot is unfoiled, to kill the witness before he testifies before the grand jury about witnessing corruption in the police force. Willis has 2 hours to deliver the witness, and those 2 hours are the longest of his life.

Richard Donner who has directed some of the mega hits like Leather Weapon, Scrooged, Free Willy and Superman, brings together not only a solid suspense and action movie but a movie about redemption and relationship. Caught between a down and out drunk cop and a complete loser thief, comes the understanding that people can change and there are second chances. I really enjoyed the limited dialogue that Bruce Willis brings to the table, as well as the solid comedic, yet heart felt performance of Mos Def. Unlike many action movies that just bring bullets and babes, this movie replaces the babes a good solid plot.

As far as action movies go, this movie is first rate. I would say that “16 Blocks” fits in right between Action and Suspense with a hint of conservatism. Yes, there are things that you say, “Hummm, that was a bit unrealistic,” but at the same time, it still sticks to reality for the majority of the time. I was expecting most of the critics to hate the film, because they bomb almost every single Bruce Willis movie he is in. Mostly because Hollywood hates action movies and even more so, they have conservatives. This movie is directed by an arch conservative and acted by one as well. Both Donner and Willis have been known in Hollywood for their outwardly expressive conservative ideals and Willis even went to Iraq with Bush to help motivate the troops. Needless to say, this did not go over too well with the Tim Robbins and Alec Baldwins of the world. Nonetheless, this movie is getting decent reviews and has a lot of going for it.

“16 Blocks” proves that you do not need to bring filth and trash to action movies in order for them to be good. “16 Blocks” promotes family values, redemption and forgiveness. The movie is not filled with massive amount of f-words and does not have any dirty jokes. Personally it would have been nice to see some more blood and guts, but then again, I’m a guy, what can I say. Hummmmm, are we sure Hollywood made this movie. I can recommend this movie to anyone over the age of 10 and say that this is a great flick.

For those of you who watch the first 5 minutes and want to walk out, never fear, after 5 minutes, it jumps right into the plot. The movie is not as drab and dreary as you may think in the beginning. The action picks up, the characters interact and the movie’s pace is solid. 3½ of 4 Stars

Warning to Parents: There was very little bad language and some violence. The movie was too intense for kids but totally fine for teens. This movie actually had some very good lessons to be learned about redemption and sacrifice, about friendship and about change. I highly recommend this movie to anyone over 10.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—John Kehrli, age 31
Positive—For me 16 Blocks is a pleasant surprise. My inner circle of film critic friends had voiced their displeasure, but their viewpoints didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the film. 16 Blocks isn’t your typical Bruce Willis movie. Sure it’s a fun ride and there’s plenty of action but I felt that the heart of the story was more about personal character and doing the right thing.

Ten minutes into the film I thought Detective Jack Mosley was a mixture of Serpico and Homer Simpson. Boy, was I wrong. The man who owns “shield 227” certainly has his inner demons to contend with, which for me makes Jack a more believable character. There’s nothing really new here but I found 16 Blocks to be an entertaining film with a good message. It has the setup, the chase and a somewhat sentimental resolution to wrap up the movie. There are approximately 23 curse words/slangs spewed across the 105 minutes of the movie but the f bomb (twice) was saved for the final act. The violence was neither gratuitous nor heavily explicit. (I believe only one character actually was killed in the film) Still, I wouldn’t recommend this film for young teenagers.

This is the second movie that I’ve seen where Bruce Willis and David Morse square off against each other. (The first was 12 Monkeys) I felt the performances by both these actors were very well done. Mos Def’s role as “Eddie” with the full blown squeaky cartoonish voice took some time to get used to and it made me wonder if his character had something else hiding in the closet other than stockpiles of cooking recipes. Still, the recurring theme of the movie is that people can change regardless of the bad choices made in the past. Certainly, Christians can agree on this point.

However, only Jesus can truly redeem the soul.
My Ratings: Average / 3
—Albert Anthony Buonanno III, age 49
Positive—People can and do change! There might be hope for Hollyweird yet. Put out more movies like this and Christians (not that you appear to care) might not be as critical of you! If you are a Bruce Willis fan and someone who likes to see good triumph over evil, this you will enjoy this film. There is violence and bad language, but no nudity or sex scenes. I found the plot somewhat unpredictable, yet very refreshing for the box office these days.
My Ratings: Good / 3
—Bob C, age 42
Positive—…one the best films I have seen in a while! I highly recommend this movie to any adult Christian. It had action, heart, twists and turns and and an outstanding message. This is not a Christian movie by any standards but it’s message stands at the very core of Chrsitianity: people can change. No matter who you are or what you have done, you can make a change in your life. Of course, apart from faith in Christ, there is only so much a person can change, but the basic message of this film is still a good one. So if you are looking for a good, clean thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat and leave you smiling at the end, “16 Blocks” is the film for you!…
My Ratings: Better than Average / 3
—Jared White, age 25
Negative—An utterly dreadful film. I sat there wondering just how Spike Lee could produce such rubbish—then other people told me that his other films weren’t that good anyway. The language is absolutely foul, so one feels as if one is making their way through a sewer with no light showing in the end of the tunnel. The characters are not clever—just annoying. I walked out half way through thinking I had better things to do than wasting another hour of my life watching such piffle.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 1
—dalittlewood, age 58
Movie Critics
…Short on words and long on action… a lot of gunplay though not much blood…
—The New York Times, Manohla Dargis
…a familiar story of police corruption, a grudging buddy picture with the requisite chase scenes, two-handed shooting, gritty locations and predictable ending…
—USA Today, Claudia Puig
…gritty realism… an adrenaline rush of continuous, contiguous escape scenes…
—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, John Hayes
…a chase drama with a fraying imagination… blandly goes where films have gone before…
—Boston Globe, Wesley Morris