They could've called this film "Die Hard 4," but that might be an insult to the Die Hard franchise, so they changed the alcoholic cop's name and titled the film, appropriately, "16 Blocks."
Bruce Willis plays an over-the-hill, dead beat, alcoholic cop (something we haven't seen before) who just wants to go home and pass out on the couch. Instead, at the last minute he is assigned to transfer a prisoner sixteen blocks down to the courthouse to testify in a trial. The criminal, played by Mos Def, is of course not really a bad guy; he's actually just a good kid who got mixed up in bad things (something we haven't seen before). Then there's the group of dirty cops who play the "real" bad guys (something we haven't seen before). Are you seeing a pattern here?
The prisoner has to make it to the courthouse by 10am to testify against the aforementioned "real" bad guys. The dirty cops will do anything they can to stop the kid from getting there. Of course, Bruce Willis will have none of that. His cop instincts take over his hangover and beer belly and he becomes the action hero we all know and love as he attempts to get through sixteen blocks of New York City streets with about 500 angry cops between him and his destination. Cliché action sequences and predictability ensue.
There are a few scenes with merit, and Donner is good at building suspense at certain points, but it is all overshadowed by preposterousness. The opening show-down between Willis and the bad guys is good and there are a couple of original thinking scenes peppered throughout other spots of the film. Most of the time however, I could see how the situation was going to pan out before it happened.
I'm not going to rip Bruce Willis. He makes great movies and his characters stand out. His portrayal of Detective Mosely in this film is really no different. I liked him. I also liked Mos Def's character too. He's the motor-mouth, semi-funny, punk kid who's just along for the ride. The problem is that they don't seem to fit together as partners or friends as the film, I think, is trying to get you to believe. They aren't a Murtaugh and Riggs (Lethal Weapon) or a John McClane and Zeus Carter (Die Hard 3). Donner tries to put two, very different, almost opposite characters in an intense situation and watch them grow into best buddies. For some reason, where he has succeeded in that endeavor in the past, I think he failed in 16 Blocks.
I must mention David Morse. You may have seen him in other films such as "The Green Mile," "Contact," or "The Negotiator;" among others. I've always liked him and to see him play the bad guy was kind of neat. He put energy and heart into it and I enjoyed his character a lot. Unfortunately, the end of the film was the most disappointing moment ever. The final showdown, if you will, has been done about 100 times and if you don't see it coming, I would question if you've ever seen a movie before. This is what ruined David Morse's performance for me. The fact that he chose a script with this kind of crap for an ending. The same would go for Bruce Willis. I like them, but I am disappointed in their choice for signing on to this ridiculously overdone story-line grounded into a rather original idea for a film.
I'm not giving this film a thumbs down because of the basic action suspense that is involved. Many people are going to enjoy themselves immensely. If you don't care that you've seen it before and are just in the mood for some suspenseful moments and gun shooting interspersed with quiet moments of introspection between characters, this film is for you. If you just dig Bruce Willis, like I do, you may enjoy it enough to say it wasn't a complete waste of an hour and a half of your life. But if you're expecting an interesting plot with something new, try sixteen blocks in the other direction, they're showing another film over there.