There must be a reason Chadwick (Black Panther) Boseman’s second to last film 21 Bridges apparently bombed at the box office late last year. Why else would the public have missed the chance to see the last film but one that King T’Challa made before he died suddenly on 28 August?
Here, we had the biggest Black actor starring in his first post-Black Panther role. Yet for some reason, the critics panned the film leading to a few people seeing the beloved Boseman morph from being a king to becoming a New York City cop.
It got mediocre ratings, especially by comparison to Black Panther or any of the other Avenger films that Boseman co-starred in.
I admit 21 Bridges might not have been the best film for him to make after he dazzled the world in the duo-roles of King T’Challa and Black Panther. If I had been his agent, I would have recommended he wait until the script for Black Panther 2 was done.
Ryan Coogler, the BP director and screenwriter for BP2 admitted it broke his heart that he’d never see his dear friend become T’Challa ever again.
But frankly, 21 Bridges wasn’t half bad, that is, if you don’t mind shoot-‘em-up cop thrillers about drug deals, dirty cops and our hero Chadwick being the one cop who’s clean and incorruptible. As he put it in the film, it was ‘in his DNA’. That’s because his father was a clean cop before him who had worked to root out corruption but was killed in the process.
To me, the real problem of 21 Bridges is not the plot. In fact, it’s solid action-adventure with Chatwick doing his best to give his character soul, depth and purpose. The problem more than likely is political. It’s probably because the timing wasn’t right for public to watch a film that exposed police corruption, including cops killing with impunity when it served their interests.
That is who most of the cops are that Detective Andre Davis (Chadwick) must deal with after several of them are mysteriously murdered by burglars sent to grab a huge cache of drugs that the dirty cops have an interest in. Andre already has a history of challenging dirty cops. As the film opens, we learn he’s actually killed several of them in self-defence.
After that, the story unfolds fast. Its title derives from Manhattan Island’s 21 bridges which Andre commands be shut down (along with the trains and planes) to block the cop killers any avenue of escape.
His fellow cops have their own agenda, but I won’t spoil the story for you. I’ll just say that ‘Black Lives Matter’, the social justice movement was already protesting police impunity before the film opened. So despite 21 Bridges revealing harsh realities about cop corruption, by its amplifying such a politically-sensitive theme, the film could have easily offended powerful forces that didn’t appreciate the cinematic exposure and ruled ‘thumbs down’. After that, the film’s screenings were few.