Black and Blue Review: Naomie Harris shines in Deon Taylor’s best film to date.
Written by Peter A. Dowling and directed by Deon Taylor, Black and Blue is action thriller and one of the first of its kind to incorporate body cams as part of its storytelling. In the film, Naomie Harris stars as Alicia West, a New Orleans Police Department rookie, who agrees to take her partner’s double shift so he can spend the night alone with his wife. While on a ridealong, West witnesses a murder of a young drug dealer that is captured on her body cam. After realizing that the murder was planned by a group of corrupt cops, West is forced to lay low. She joins forces with a local convinence store clerk named Milo (Tyrese Gibson) who helps her in her quest to expose the murder and those involved.
There have been countless cop dramas and action films about dirty cops throughout the history of cinema. What makes Black and Blue differ from those films is that it is the first film, at least to my knowledge, to use police body cams as a plot device. The idea of police officers having to wear body cams is a relevant topic and something that has been a big part of the conversation when it comes to trust in law enforcement. When incorporating body cams into a film such as this one, it gives the audience a new take on this technology that has the ability to help and save lives.
Black and Blue is the tenth feature film from self taught filmmaker Deon Taylor. If you are unaware of who Taylor is, I highly recommend that you go through his filmography and get to know his work because he is a talent on the rise. While Taylor may still have a thing or two to learn about filmmaking, he has come a long way in the twelve years that he has been making movies. Taylor is an ambitious filmmaker who truly loves what he does. He has worked his ass off and with each new project has only gotten better and better. It is hard to believe that in the span of three years, Taylor has went from directing a film like Meet the Blacks to directing Black and Blue.
This is Taylor’s second project with Sony/Screen Gems and it is easily his best film to date. You can tell that between The Intruder and Black and Blue, Taylor is a director who takes risks and is happy to challenge himself as a filmmaker. Throughout Black and Blue, Taylor keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. He is constantly building excitement and tension. It is the type of film that works best when seen with a crowd because it sparks engagement from its audience. I saw this in packed theater, the same way that I saw The Intruder earlier this year, and I have to say, seeing it with a crowd does really does add to the experience.
This brings me to another compliment that I have to give Deon Taylor. Leading up to and including the release of Traffik, I would say that all of Taylor’s work prior to 2019 felt like something you could skip in a theater and watch directly at home. The Intruder and Black and Blue are crowd movies. These are films that should be experienced with others on the big screen in a movie theater. The action scenes in Black and Blue will still work when watching at home but seeing them on the big screen definitely makes you appreciate the hard work and dedication that went into filming them.
While Taylor directs his heart out, the film wouldn’t be nearly as effective if it wasn’t for Naomie Harris who delivers one of the best performances of her career as Alicia West. You can tell from the very first scene that Harris has brought her A-game and gives the role her all. This is a very raw performance and one that you can tell she is incredibly passionate about it. While her role as Paula in Moonlight is still her best performance to date, this is Harris’ best performance in a leading role. The role of Alicia West is multi-faceted as she plays a woman with a past that has shaped her strong convictions and moral code. Harris makes the character compelling with a pulse-pounding performance that proves that she can and rightly deserves to be the star of future projects.
Tyrese Gibson’s performance as Milo Jackson showcases his talent as an actor as well. While most know Gibson as an R&B singer or one of the supporting characters in the Fast and Furious franchise, his work in Black and Blue is impressive because he gets to show off his dramatic side and is given a chance to play a character that is more than what meets the eye. He does a great job and his chemistry with Harris is spot-on. The two of them work well together and carry the weight of this story on their shoulders.
Even though I was engaged and entertained by Black and Blue, I would be remiss not to mention that the film takes a very conventional route when all is said and done. I don’t blame the actors or Deon Taylor for this but rather screenwriter Peter A. Dowling. While the script does touch upon on certain themes that are timely and relevant, Dowling never digs deep enough. It is a real shame because this film had the potential to spark a much larger conversation but sadly, it just becomes another film about corrupt cops despite its intriguing setup.
Elevated by the strong performances from Naomie Harris and Tyrese Gibson, Black and Blue is a gripping and engaging cop thriller with a modern day twist. Despite never living up to its true potential, the film effectively uses body cams to its advantage by taking an old fashioned story about dirty cops and making it anew for a 2019 audience. Black and Blue is a non-stop thrill ride that will keep audiences entertained until the end credits start to roll.