I first saw the work of director Richard Donner when I was seven. It was on a Saturday morning kids show, The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, which featured costumed performers riding around in dune buggies, as well as cartoons and a live action short called Danger Island. Donner directed Danger Island, and the story of castaways battling pirates was so thrilling that I still remember it today. That was the workman-like prowess of Donner then, and after a career which includes Superman and the Lethal Weapon series, he continues to thrill with his latest, 16 Blocks.
Bruce Willis plays drunky, washed up cop Jack Mosley, a guy who's been relegated to crap jobs—the latest being transporting petty thief Eddie (Mos Def) 16 blocks to the courthouse. That short trip turns into a long one when the two figure out that Eddie is the target of dirty cops who want to stop him from testifying. Though I wouldn't dare spoil the surprises to come, let's just say Jack has to put down the bottle and call forth some of the old stuff in order to survive the deadly roller coaster ride that he inadvertently finds himself on.
And calling forth the old stuff is exactly what director Donner has done, and to great effect. Willis and Def are dirtier than Nolte and Murphy in 48 Hours, and just as entertaining—but Donner is the real star here. 16 Blocks hearkens back to the great, gritty crime dramas of the '70s—Serpico, The Gauntlet, Dog Day Afternoon—and Donner captures that sweaty claustrophobia in a tight as a drum action flick that never fails to satisfy or disappoint. Check out 16 Blocks, and watch the master at work.