Black and Blue (2019) – Review (with Spoilers)

69.43% (4)

Black and Blue is the rare combination of high octane, “That’s what I’m talking about!” moments and a sense of depth rare in action movies.


Director(s) Deon Taylor
Screenplay By Peter A. Dowling
Official Date Released 10/25/2019
Genre(s) Drama, Action, Crime, Thriller
Who Is This For?
  • People Who Like Their Action Movies To Be More Than Violence & Gore
  • Those Who Want To See A Black Woman Not Only Take On Unsurmountable Odds But Not Lose A Sense That They Are Still Human In The Process
  • Anyone Who Likes The Idea Of There Being A Gray Area When It Comes To Heroes and Villains
Where To Buy, Rent, or Stream? Fandango
Noted Cast
Alicia Naomie Harris
Mouse (Milo) Tyrese Gibson
Terry Malone Frank Grillo
Missy Nafessa Williams
Darius Mike Colter

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Plot Summary/ Review (with Spoilers)

After ten years of being away, Alicia returns home to New Orleans to bury her mom and become a cop. Which, as you can imagine, is a struggle. There is massive distrust, even from people Alicia grew up with, and even she seems unable sometimes to know how and when to use her privilege as a cop.

Yet, when forced to decide whether to support the blue wall and cover massive corruption or speak out, despite doing two tours in Afghanistan, she may have chosen to have the most difficult 48 hours of her life.

Highlights

Neither Damns Nor Glorifies Cops

One of the goals of Alicia joining the force, if not reason, is because her time doing two tours in Afghanistan, paired with an upbringing in New Orleans, has exposed her to the reality there is no us and them. Which, I know, may sound like the film is trying to humanize cops and, in a way, it does. Yet, there is this fine balance between recognizing the need for law and order and also presenting how hard it is to enforce.

Think about it, you enter a situation knowing nothing about what is going on. You don’t know if it is just a heated argument, if things could escalate from fist to weapons, and you have to figure out how to deescalate the situation. All the while having to deal with not just the people involved, but those who are their friends or surrounding them. Thus presenting a multitude of variables that create a stressful situation.

Now, this idea isn’t to excuse some of the police brutality we see, but with a cop like Alicia being our medium, you feel like cops are given a fair shake. One which highlights how dangerous and trying their job is, but also holds them accountable for their role is to keep the peace, support the people, and not act as judge, jury, and executioner.

It Helps You Understand Why Many African Americans Have Complicated Relationships With Law Enforcement

Having the cops involved in your life is the last resort. Especially for African Americans since we know they will escalate a situation rather than deescalate it. We see this in one particular scene with Tyrese’s character Milo. Being that Milo’s past includes a criminal conviction, he isn’t allowed to have a firearm. This, as you can imagine, in a southern state, never mind an area dealing with oppressive poverty, makes him very vulnerable. So vulnerable that he can be desperate enough to call law enforcement.

And that is what leads to a moment many of us who have melanin worry about. I call the cops to aide me, yet they victimize me. There is a fear or worry for my property or person, and that fear evolves into one in which between prison or my life, the reason I called is now moot. Which is a devastating feeling for you feel stripped of not just your humanity, but the ability to be vulnerable and ask for help.

Oh, and lest we forget, there is also knowing if you get roughed up, dehumanized, maybe harassed for saying something back, you have the uphill battle of something being done. For while, yeah, your community might believe you, cops have a certain immunity. The kind that allows them to be feared yet still hold a position paid for by those who fear them as both individuals and a group.

Yet, when you are in the position to call, you question if it is worth it? For if you see a cop car while driving, you process every last thing you’ve done and become hyper-aware of everything. And that stress, we see it all on Milo’s face. The manic thoughts of everything that could be done and the preparation to suppress that trauma since there is no retribution. So, at best, all you can do is cry.

So Many Quality, “That’s What I’m Talking About!” Moments

With the amount of frustrating moments the film has, primarily thanks to its villain Terry Malone, it makes every moment we see Alicia, Mouse, or someone else fight back so satisfying. It’s like experiencing a cathartic release each time. Then when you add in it is often Alicia, and that she is doing what she is for herself, as much as for the community, it takes things to the next level.

How Harris Portrays The Concept Of A Strong Black Woman

Which I say because, often, there is this push for Black women to save society or be this unshakeable hero – yet while praising their sacrifices, there is never the conversation of what led to the sacrifice. Be it no one stepping up, people hemming and hawing, or just general lack of support – even when they asked.

So, to see Alicia just as much be this badass who could possibly go Rambo and do it all herself, yet seek help and, with time, get it, we get this wonderful mix of Harris getting to be this grand feminist, but without losing the fact she is a person. One who may have military training, and a high pain tolerance, but has no desire to become a martyr.

While Universal, It Doesn’t Forget How A Lot Of The Situation Is Unique To New Orleans

Issues with the police and possible corruption aren’t just a Black thing, or something exclusive to the United States. Yet, like any good story, as much as we’re presented with something universal, we’re reminded that there are specifics in the mosaic. For Black and Blue, it is how those who live in New Orleans, post-Katrina, experience the issue of poverty, potential police brutality, and trying to keep your nose clean.

For example, Alicia did not have an easy upbringing, and so her out was the military. Which, generally, many of us are optioned if we don’t have academic prowess or aren’t likely to find a place in the entertainment industry. But then things get specific in taking note that, post-Katrina, New Orleans lacked the budget for the services people needed, opportunities to rebuild, and the kind of jobs that would pay enough to not fall prey to a vice or illegal activity.

Hence the diverging path of Alicia and her childhood best friend, Missy. One which led to Alicia finding an out, and the strength to come back to change the culture, and then Missy being consumed by it for she had to make the best of a bad situation. Otherwise, her story would be summed up in a sentence on a headstone than in progress.

On The Fence

When It Comes To Backstory, You Are Given Just Enough To Paint Your Own Picture

Generally speaking, no one’s story is gone into in-depth. This includes characters played by notable actors like Mike Colter, of Luke Cage fame. Instead, we’re presented with a lot of characters who are given just enough backstory to push you to think of people you may know like them. Thus, you may feel Black and Blue offloads the work of building out its characters to the audience. Perhaps so it can focus on specific moments to further stir up your memories and have you bring yourself into its world rather than it bring its world to you.

Overall: Positive (Worth Seeing)

Black and Blue isn’t perfect, yet its flaws are so minor you could easily craft artistic excuses for them. Because what the film does it somehow balance the kind of action audiences need to keep them engaged, yet find a way to make the depth of the story just as engaging, even while it presents a message. This combination isn’t easy. Usually, like finding a good partner, you get two at the sacrifice of one. Either the action and story is good, but its lack of message makes it forgettable, or the message and story was excellent, but you were bored through the experience.

So Black and Blue finding a way to present a culturally relevant message, craft characters who, positively and negatively, get a reaction out of you, and it has the kind of story that excites you and causes anxiety? How can you not applaud that?

How Would You Rate This?

Negative Mixed Positive

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How Would You Rate This?

Negative Mixed Positive

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Neither Damns Nor Glorifies Cops
90 %
It Helps You Understand Why Many African Americans Have Complicated Relationships With Law Enforcement
89 %
So Many Quality, "That's What I'm Talking About!" Moments
91 %
How Harris Portrays The Concept Of A Strong Black Woman
95 %
While Universal, It Doesn't Forget How A Lot Of The Situation Is Unique To New Orleans
88 %
When It Comes To Backstory, You Are Given Just Enough To Paint Your Own Picture
79 %
New Jersey native Amari Allah has been writing reviews, in a "Media Advisor" capacity since 2011 and has been touching upon television, movies, books, live performances, video games, and more ever since. Using a fusion of his varied knowledge of entertainment, partly gained from being a Communications major in college, his love for visual and written media, as well an ever-evolving respect for both creators and the consumers they sell to.