21 Bridges is making it’s way through cinemas worldwide and the film packs a lot of twists and turns that will keep you guessing during it 1 hour 40 minute run time.
Throughout this, I’m gonna be breaking down everything that you need to know about the film, it’s ending and my general thoughts on the movie.
There will be heavy spoilers here so if you haven’t had a chance to watch the movie yet and don’t want to know what happens then I highly suggest that you turn off now.
With that out the way I just wanna give a huge thank you for clicking this video, now let’s get into our breakdown of 21 Bridges.
21 Bridges Plot Recap
Ok, so the movie should be called 21 Dead Cops because damn this movie does not hold back on the body count at all. From the off the film operates in moral shades of grey and every character in the film has a darker side to them and a relatability that makes the characters far more realistic and grounded than the typical crime thriller that we normally get.
This is exemplified by our protagonist, Andre Davis who is played masterfully by Chadwick Boseman. Davis pretty much inherited the role of a policeman from his father who was killed in the line of duty after trying to apprehend three criminals that turned on him during an arrest. This has vastly shaped Davis and throughout his career, he has operated with a shoot first, ask questions later mentality in order to not make the same mistake as his dad.
This has brought him into an Internal Affairs investigation and it’s also this reputation as a gun with a badge that means he becomes a key player in the plot ahead.
A Robbery Gone Wrong
The movie really kicks off during a botched robbery with characters Michael and Ray both of whom have been hired to steal 30 kilos of coke for a drug dealer. Upon arriving at the scene and carrying out the act they are shocked to find instead 300 kilos of the narcotic and things quickly turn south when policemen arrive at the location.
Michael and Ray both possess military training and due to the former’s skill he is able to kill the policemen as well as the backup that arrives at the scene. With several officers dead, a massive manhunt begins for them with Davis ordering the shutdown of all bridges and tunnels in the metropolis of Manhattan as they attempt to close the net on the two.
It really is a brilliant premise and though the film itself takes place across multiple areas, for some reasons I had flashes of a Die Hard movie in it’s tone and atmosphere. There’s an undercurrent throughout that we aren’t getting the full picture and as the movie progresses it becomes clear that things aren’t as they seem.
I’m just gonna spoil the ending right now because I think this knowledge is needed to add the context for the film and why things happen the way that they do.
So it turns out that the police officers at precinct 85 are part of the drug movement within the city and for a cut of the profits they transport narcotics throughout the area. The policemen that arrived at the scene early on were partaking in the movement of the 300 kilos and they and Michael and Ray just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Captain McKenna Of The 85, played by JK Simmons just wants the entire mess cleaned up before the operation is unearthed and luckily for him, Davis who tends to kill without questions is at the scene and thus he tasks him with bringing the two in.
So it all seems like it’s gonna be ok right?
Well, Davis has kinda had a change of heart and throughout the film we watch as he sort of rights the wrongs of his past, trying to get to the truth rather than the target. Davis is teamed up with Frankie Burns played by Sienna Miller who is really having a career revival at the moment and together they track down the two as they attempt to make their escape.
The movie beautifully portrays both sides of the struggle with Michael and Ray desperately trying to get off the island and away from everything. It looks like they may have a shot too upon reaching a man known as Adi who is a cleaner that can provide them with new identities and launder their money.
Just as things look like they’re working out for the two though police show up at Adis and shoot him through the door without even giving warning. Adi tells Michael of two thumb drives that he keeps on his computer and the codes to access them and the thief manages to grab them before making their escape. The police finally get through and shoot Adi and we later learn when Davis checks her phone, pretending to have not battery on his to make a call, that she tipped of the officer leading this charge named Kelly.
It’s revealed later that out of sheer bad luck Ray and Michael went to the person that was also laundering the police’s money and this is kinda what helped to close the circle in on them. This is why Adi threatens the police before he shoots them as he knows he has connections in the force that are supposed to protect him.
Man On The Run
Davis and Frankie manage to find Ray and Michael and Davis manages to kill the former, almost stopping Michael who takes Frankie hostage and escapes. During their exchange, Michael informs Davis of the two thumb drives and discusses the strange turn of events that have caused the night to go haywire. This tips Davis off slightly to the bigger picture and he decides that he needs to bring him in rather than take him down as he has done in the past with suspects.
Michael breaks into a random hotel guests room and after holding them at gunpoint gets the password to their laptop which he uses to scan the thumb drives.
Here he discovers that the cleaner was keeping tabs on all of the outgoings and incomings in every aspect of the drug trade in the city and this includes a list of badge numbers from the 85 as well as the amounts of money that they have earned from being in on the distribution process.
Michael changes his appearance but the long arm of the law still manages to track him down and after an awesome chase scene Davis comes face to face or rather gun to gun with the character on the Subway. Here Michael tells him about the content of the flash drives and after Frankie arrives and shoots him as he is surrendering.
Frankie blames her poor judgment on the fact she couldn’t see him and let’s face it this guy is responsible for the death of many of her co-workers. Davis checks her phone and then later on in the movie there’s lip service paid to the fact that he also checked the drives and made the info on them public before going to confront McKenna at his house.
This is where we learn that the police arrived at the drop off that Ray and Micahel were robbing and that this entire movie was basically McKenna trying to cover up the conspiracy whilst also avenging the deaths of his friends. He says that the police are pretty much protecting a city that hates them and that due to the pay that police get it’s difficult to keep rooves over their family’s heads without making a bit on the side. He asks Davis to look the other way saying that if he doesn’t he will always be looking over his shoulder due to ratting out fellow officers. Davis refuses, saying that he’d rather look the devil in the eye and just as it looks like he’s about to take McKenna in, his coworkers arrive and start shooting at the character.
There are more dead cops cos it’s not like this movie had enough and Davis manages to kill McKenna by shooting him through the wall at his home. Frankie arrives again out of nowhere, she seems to just like hanging around outside of places till it’s time to shoot and she holds Davis at gunpoint. He manages to talk her into surrendering, using her daughter as leverage.
Police close in on the house and Davis escorts her outside before driving back over one of the open bridges with the snapped thumb drive.
21 Bridges Ending Explained
Now whilst this may seem like a happy ending, it’s actually not really that good when you think about it. Davis has pretty much caused a huge PR nightmare for the police. There’s also the fact that Ray and Michael sold their cocaine haul to a drug dealer who now will be able to flood the market due to the police no longer being a roadblock that he needs to give a cut to.
Overall 21 Bridges, as I stated earlier, operates in a shade of grey that really makes it so that at the ending of the film there are really no winners. Every side takes a loss. Davis has missed out on spending time with his severely ill mother and no doubt the internal affairs investigation that was brought up because of how trigger happy he was will have a lot more scrutiny over it and you really get the feeling that though Davis ‘did the right thing’ it came at a huge cost.
To me this is exemplified by one of the film’s final shots in which we see the thumb drive snapped which symbolises that the entire force, drug trade and basically the underworld of New York has been broken open and is now out in the world, revealing the city’s true price.
Davis is at a crossing point now which is cemented in his traveling of the bridge and he has decided to go in a direction that takes him away from all the corruption and dirty side of the city that will hopefully lead to him getting out of it for good.
It’s a somber note to end on and we cut to the credits, ending the film.
21 Bridges Review
But what did I think of the film overall?
Well though 21 Bridges is getting pretty bad reviews, currently sitting at just 46% on Rotten Tomatoes, I really enjoyed the film. There are some loose threads that I would have liked to have seen a resolution to such as the IA investigation and his absence from his mother but other than that the film is really well made.
It’s got a great pace to it and all of the performances, most notable Chadwick Boseman and Sienna Miller provide gravitas for the work that makes this feel like one of the grittiest cop dramas we’ve seen in years.
The Russo Brothers have their names all over this but I’m not sure how much they actually had to do with the work as it feels very alien to their typical projects.
That’s not to say it’s bad either and they have clearly brought together a tight script and style that means this is a great, thrilling watch.
I had a lot of fun with 21 Bridges and I have to massively disagree with the critics on this as I found it a really enjoyable watch.
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Now obviously I’d love to hear your thoughts on 21 Bridges and if you agree with my review or side more with the critics. Comment below and let me know!