Naomie Harris excels as rookie cop with her life on the line

Naomie Harris
Rookie cop Alicia West has to decide when she finds herself in a life or death situation that could compromise her station


Black and Blue

Director: Deon Taylor

Starring: Naomie Harris, Tyrese Gibson and Mike Colter


Usually, the seedy crime underworld is set against the backdrop of places such as New York or Los Angeles. This cop thriller unfolds in the Crescent City, New Orleans. It’s an iconic city as far as black culture goes.

Naomie Harris plays a rookie who left her home town of New Orleans to join the army, and returned a fully fledged police officer after some time in the academy. She’s still new to the game and will learn the hard way as the film plays out. It’s quite clear from the first scene what themes the director is intending to focus on.

Alicia West (Harris) is jogging to her late mother’s resting place. She’s not in uniform and is wearing headphones as she canters through the streets of her neighbourhood.

A marked police car pulls up next to her and one officer is particularly rough with her until his partner finds her identification and informs his violent buddy that “she’s blue”.

You see it now, black and blue? Cop and African-American. Us and them. Given the scourge of violence towards African-Americans over the last few years, a lot more work is now aimed at highlighting this ongoing issue.

Heavy trap music plays as the director uses a combination of wide and drone shots to show New Orleans looking less vibrant than it does when Mardi Gras hits town. Dreary clouds and buildings with some interesting graffiti makes this location a well-chosen spot to plant this story. Alicia West works the night shift as a stand-in for her partner and things turn bad, quickly.

She witnesses her temporary partner and some undercover narcotics officers execute two teenage pushers. They then turn the barrel on her and fire. She escapes and enlists the help of an old friend, Milo Jackson, played by the controversial Tyrese Gibson of Baby Boy (2001) and Fast and the Furious fame.

The snag in the saga is that the New Orleans Police Department has recently kitted out its officers with body cameras. West had the wherewithal to put hers on during the execution. It’s a fairly standard crime thriller. New Orleans gives it a refreshing zest and Harris is a strong enough actor to carry this film as Gibson doesn’t do much.

It was impressive to see what director Deon Taylor could conjure up when he isn’t playing the upstanding Luke Cage on Netflix. Films that take place over a day or two always seem more exciting.

The script doesn’t stretch any of the players nor does the director look to carve out avante garde imagery. But this is a step up for Taylor, who has had a questionable catalogue to say the least.

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