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21 BRIDGES

Production Information
21 BRIDGES presents an intriguing mix of spectacle, propulsive and non-stop action, an epic "ticking clock" crime story. The explosive story unfolds during a single night, after a drug heist gone horribly wrong results in the deaths of eight cops. Det. Andre Davis devises the desperate but ingenious plan to close down Manhattan, to enable him and his team to entrap the two perpetrators, who'll have no place to flee in the sealed-off island.

"The idea of locking down Manhattan for a manhunt was incredibly compelling and cinematic," says Chadwick Boseman, who portrays Davis and also serves as a producer on the film. "We haven't seen that before."

Adds Boseman's producing partner, Logan Coles: "I could see the trailer when I first read the script and thought what a cool concept for an action movie - Cops shutting down an island to catch criminals. It's an edge of your seat ride."

Beyond the action, the filmmakers were eager to explore the complexities of the cops and those they're hunting. Notes director Brian Kirk: "I have an abiding fascination with manhunt movies and the moral journeys they present. This is thriller with the energy of a massive chase. There's a conceptual purity, visceral realism and heightened scale and spectacle that comes with the idea of locking down Manhattan overnight. It's almost like a military invasion. It has an archetypal clarity you associate with classic myths and with the tradition of New York crime movies. 21 BRIDGES is a modern story that exists within that tradition."

Working closely with Boseman and Kirk were noted filmmakers Joe Russo and Anthony Russo, who were among the principal architects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, having helmed the blockbusters Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. "Joe and Anthony godfathered me through the numerous challenges of making a film of this scale," says Kirk. "They helped me create an environment where the best idea always wins. I drew inspiration from them throughout the film's development, production and, especially, during post-production.

As Joe Russo points out, 21 BRIDGES fits very well in his and Anthony's creative wheelhouse. "We grew up on genre films, especially elevated genre pictures with a particularly sophisticated execution of that type of material," he explains. "Brian Kirk was someone at the top of our list of artists we wanted to work with. He understands the film's themes and twists and turns, as well as the social potency of some of the issues it examines."

Producer Gigi Pritzker added, "I was drawn to the film beginning with the terrific script. The idea of working with Joe and Anthony on this kind of a genre film directed by Brian Kirk made it even more compelling and exciting. The film is totally exhilarating and puts you in the center of a gripping crime drama that pulls you in and won't let go. Chadwick gives an award-winning performance that will resonate with audiences as we watch his character grapple with the complex choices he has to make."

That social potency points to the film's rich and layered social commentary, much of it focused on the sometimes-thin line that exists between cop and perpetrator, and all brought to life by characters with surprising nuances. Andre begins his unstoppable pursuit in full hunter mode, but as he draws closer to his prey and begins to understand the context of their actions, he undergoes a fascinating evolution.

Their collision course, says Anthony Russo, "reveals surprising layers as the narrative progresses, blurring the lines between protagonist and antagonist. We always look for 'villains' with strong emotional or empathetic points of view. There are many sides to a given story."

"We wanted to bring significant moral and emotional substance to the film," Kirk adds. "It's more layered than a simple 'good versus evil' story. Andre ultimately wants to save his prey, Michael, played by Stephan James, and their respective journeys are toward connection and interdependence. That was a fascinating and incredibly strong core element to explore."

Says co-producer Malcolm Gray: "We wanted the cops and bad guys to be equally compelling, to the point where you may actually be rooting for the two gunmen to escape, as much as you are for Andre to capture them. All the characters are flawed and human, and because of their circumstances, they are forced to examine their own morality."

Boseman confirms that Andre is a complex figure. "He has prepared his entire life to be a cop," the Black Panther star explains. "Andre's father, a policeman, was killed in the line of duty when Andre was just 13, so he has grown up with this unsettled murder of his dad. Over the years, Andre has become determined to not only avenge his father's death, but those of any cops he has served with."

As Boseman indicates, the filmmakers were focused on fine-tuning the character of Davis and giving him as much texture as possible. "Chadwick wanted Davis to be a layered and unexpected hero," says Kirk. "We, along with screenwriter Matt Carnahan, working off initial drafts from screenwriter Adam Mervis, wanted to bring out Andre's honesty, bravery and intelligence. He's a warrior with a purpose. Detective with a code, Chadwick brought everything to the table to realize the character's potential."

Anthony Russo adds, "Chadwick is an incredible artist who always brings that same level of execution to his work as a producer. He understands not only the intricacies of his character, but how to step back and look at the bigger picture." Giving Davis some unexpected dimensions was critical. "We wanted to put some dirt under his fingernails and make him a little less refined and less of a simple heroic figure," says Coles.

ON THE RUN

Taylor Kitsch and Stephan James portray, respectively, Ray and Michael, close friends and small-time thieves whose latest heist triggers a massive manhunt after they stumble upon an enormous cache of cocaine - and then kill several cops during their escape.

Ray and Michael's fates were sealed the moment they took off with the huge payload. Says Boseman, "If you rob somebody of 50 kilos of cocaine, you're going to end up dead. But Ray insists on seeing it as an opportunity - a life-changing moment. So, he and Michael go down that road and it ends up blowing up in their faces because the cops' sudden arrival on the scene. It becomes a fight-or-flight situation where Michael and Ray end up killing the eight cops."

Ray is an old school military guy from the roughest part of the Bronx - having fought and survived, as one character says, "World War Crack." Ray lost his best friend - Michael's brother - in combat overseas.

Moreover, Ray is a live-wire and perhaps even psychotic, but Kitsch finds the character's heart. "There's a level of authenticity in his performance that we would not get from most. Taylor also knows how to play a soldier, having trained with Navy SEALs for his roles in Lone Survivor and Savages," notes Larocca.

Joe Russo says that he and his brother have been fans of Kitsch since his work on the landmark series Friday Night Lights. "Taylor always has a great screen presence, and in this film, he brings a complex figure to life."

Says Kitsch, "Taking a role always boils down to breathing life into it, and I loved playing Ray. Michael is the only thing that Ray has left, so he gets involved in this score to give him and Michael a better life. Ray does everything he can to protect Michael during the chaos of the manhunt. The characters in this film don't have much time to look past whatever moment they are in, and I think that's really compelling."

Kitsch affirms that the film is "relentless with a lot of twists and turns, but at the same time we get to explore, in depth, its characters and what drives them. The action is character-driven, which you don't see that much in movies today. Everyone is grounded in their own decisions and motivations."

Michael's friendship with Ray, and most of his decisions, stem from him joining the military to follow in his brother's footsteps, only to see him killed in the line of duty. Says Stephan James: "Michael then found himself in a situation where he needed to make money. Using his military training, he found a new line of work: stealing drugs. Michael sees Ray as an extension of his older brother, and they have known each other for practically their whole lives and have found comfort and trust in each other."

Though the bonds between the two men are inextricable, James notes that, "Michael and Ray are two totally different people. Michael's a lot smarter and more practical, whereas Ray is just ready for anything, all of the time. But in the end, they're both just running for their lives."

Michael's ties to Ray make him an inevitable if not an unwilling partner in the heist and subsequent killings and manhunt. "In the opening scene of the robbery, we wanted audiences to understand that Michael fully comprehends the dire situation he's been put in," says Kirk. "We experience his innate intelligence and tragic circumstances. You understand that he's not the man events present him as. He's come under the protection of his brother's best friend, Ray, and now finds himself in the most dangerous place someone can be."

Kirk further notes that casting the role was one of the biggest challenges he faced. "I always want to be as bold as possible with the storytelling, which meant that finding the right actor was incredibly important. We needed a young movie star and a great young actor, and we found that in Stephan. He's an empathetic actor, and we needed the audience to feel a connection with Michael, despite the deaths he and Ray cause with their robbery."

Anthony Russo adds, "Stephan brings so much emotion and depth to Michael. We think this film will catapult him to the next level of superstardom."

It was equally important - and challenging - to sell the growing relationship and codependency between Andre and Michael, when the cop realizes, as he closes in on his target, that truth and justice demand that he keeps Michael alive. "That's really the core relationship in our film," says Kirk. "The two characters begin their journeys as polar opposites, but they end up as two sides of the same coin."

THE PARTNER

Andre finds himself in kind of arranged marriage when he's saddled with a new partner: drug enforcement task force narcotics detective Frankie Burns, portrayed by Sienna Miller. "Davis is a homicide cop and Frankie works narcotics, so they are challenged to find their place together," says Miller. "But it's been forced upon them because the crimes involve drugs and murder. Working together requires a leap of faith from both of them, but it happens because they're great at what they do."

Miller adds that the script and character of Frankie were unlike anything she had seen before. "Frankie Burns is a cop and single mom. She's a narcotics cop, so her hours are really erratic, and she is under immense pressure and doesn't have a lot of options. So, her moral fabric reflects that. The idea of putting myself into something completely new and executed by such talented and committed artists was a real draw for me."

Says Kirk, "I've been a fan of Sienna's work on films such as Foxcatcher, American Sniper and American Woman for many years. Plus, she's phenomenally athletic and really pulled off all the character's big action beats."

"It wasn't easy finding someone who's both believable as a mother and as a street-tough narcotics officer," adds Gray. "We were incredibly lucky to get Sienna."

"It's a complex character that Sienna embodies so fully," continues Coles. "She has this warm motherly feeling, but then you see her with a gun in her hand and kicking butt; it's really impressive."

NYPD BLUE

Andre and Frankie report to Captain McKenna, a patriarchal figure who loves being a cop and is dedicated to taking care of his team. McKenna's mix of warmth and patriarchal ferocity are compelling traits, and Kirk was determined to further elevate the character through the casting of Academy Award winner J.K. Simmons, whom Kirk describes as a "Rolls Royce as an actor."

Simmons, who in addition to his award-winning performance as a sadistic music teacher in Whiplash has earned kudos for his work in everything from broad comedies to dramas to blockbuster event pictures, says he was drawn to the fact that "Behind all of McKenna's warmth, there's something more complex. I've always been attracted to stories that are not black and white. There is a complexity in all of the characters in this film. Nobody's a saint and nobody's a devil. We delve into their darker side - even those who are heroic."

Also starring is Keith David as Deputy Chief Spencer, a longtime friend and mentor to Andre. Spencer had worked with Andre's father, who was killed in the line of duty when Andre was a child. Says David, "Spencer has a special bond with Andre, because he's known him since Andre was a kid and together, they mourned the death of his father."

The supporting cast includes Morocco Omari, as Deputy Mayor Mott, who has a different kind of history with Andre, with whom he's clashed more than once. Nevertheless, it is Mott who approves Andre's bold plan for closing the island. Alexander Siddig plays Adi, a money-launderer to whom Michael and Ray turn after cashing in their massive score. Adi's a Wall Street broker, but at night he launders drug money for the cartel. Louis Cancelmi portrays Bush, a drug dealer whose lie to Michael and Ray sets the robbery and chase in motion.

LOCK IT DOWN

21 BRIDGES is set during one explosive night in the world's busiest and most populated area, Manhattan. While much of the film was captured on the streets of nearby Philadelphia, Boseman insists it's a New York film through and through. "It's authentically New York, from the dialogue to its rhythm and pace," he explains. "I lived in New York City for years, and this feels true to that NYC experience."

The filmmakers were equally intent on locking down an authenticity in their depiction of police tactics, arms, and inter-personal dealings. To that end, they brought aboard retired NYPD officers Jim Bodnar and David Adams, as technical consultants. The two, who together have more than 30 years of experience in homicide investigations and emergency services, were on the set daily to advise and consult on all things NYPD blue. Says producer Mike Larocca: "We worked closely with the NYPD and were lucky to have Jim and Dave with us. They consulted on a variety of things - from dialogue to where a finger goes on a trigger guard, and how someone would walk through a door at a crime scene. We wanted a high degree of authenticity that would create something really exciting, with a ticking clock at its core."

No one knows better than Bodnar and Adams that locking down a teeming metropolis is a monumental task - the ultimate example of that ticking clock. As the film presents this extreme scenario, the police would have to apprehend the killers by 5:00 a.m., by which time commuters would begin live-tweeting the all-encompassing manhunt; by 6 a.m. the morning news would be breaking the story; and by 7:00 a.m. the operation will have gone global.

During pre-production, Bodnar and Adams trained the actors on how to look and feel like a cop, or a perp. The actors would shoot up to 500 rounds in a training day to ensure they'd be able to move as a team and convincingly load, unload, cover, and fire.

Says Boseman, "Jim and Dave were on set to consult on anything to do with the NYPD and always ask, is this real or not? Is this how this would actually go or not? If Andre is chasing somebody, would he have his gun out? Would he point his gun in this situation? When would Andre show his badge in a public place if he's chasing somebody?"

Some answers came during Boseman's ride-alongs with active-duty NYPD night shift officers. He, along with Miller, Kitsch and James, experienced homicide investigations through the eyes of a police officer.

Kitsch and James, who portray former military men, trained with Brooklyn SWAT to hone their tactical skills. Says Kitsch, "I literally grew up in the bottom of a mountain playing cowboys and Indians, and I've been fortunate enough to be trained by Navy SEALs for some characters I've played previously, and I'm very comfortable with the military side of things."

James adds, "I was constantly picking the brains of our NYPD and SWAT consultants on set about how things worked for police officers, not just physically, but emotionally, as well." Production designer Greg Berry designed the film's raw and authentic look, which he describes as having "night as the baseline." Working closely with the director of photography Paul Cameron, Berry gave the film the feel of the "underbelly of New York City, the back rooms of Brooklyn, and other places where Michael and Ray are slipping through and trying to survive."

One of the production's biggest scenes is set in the fictional restaurant Mosto's, where Michael and Ray take off with several times the amount of cocaine they had expected to steal, followed by a shootout leaving several dead cops. The scene was captured at celebrity chef Jose Garces' restaurant, Tinto. Hundreds of bullet casings and more than a few "bodies," as well as crime scene personnel and patrol cars, helped set the tone for the breathless scene that hurls the story forward.

Berry created a Brooklyn intersection in the middle of Philadelphia that was so detailed it had locals turning their heads for a second look. New York City-style fire hydrants and trash cans were situated there, and local businesses were camouflaged to look like they were abandoned and under construction, through the movie magic of scaffolding and graffiti walls.

Other set design highlights included the creation of a NYC Chinatown alleyway complete with neon signs, trash dumpsters, barbed wire, and graffiti, and a meat locker at Kissin Meats in Fishtown.

Though most of the filming took place in Philadelphia, which doubled for New York City, the cast and crew did travel to The Big Apple for several days of filming that included locations at Grand Central Station, Chinatown, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the Meatpacking District, First and Third Avenue, the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges and in the streets by Silver Cup Studios in Queens.

New York-based costume designer David Robinson sourced NYPD-issued uniforms and patches. "We wanted the outfits to feel real, and we also consulted with our technical advisors on the wardrobe, including how to wear the gun belt or how long a pants hem should be. It's the 'little' things that make it feel authentic," he explains.

When Sienna Miller had her initial costume fitting, Robinson told the actress she would be wearing low-profile garb appropriate for a narcotics detective. "I explained, 'There is no glam here. It's mom jeans and t-shirts.' Sienna embraced it all immediately."

The confrontation between Andre and Michael at the culmination of the manhunt provided Robinson with a chance to further define the two characters. "Andre and Michael are, in a way, a mirror of each other, and for this scene, we dressed them similarly. Both men are intelligent and crafty, but they're from different backgrounds - one raised in a police household, and the other brought up in a world of crime. Their run-in is a powerful and poignant moment."

Stunt coordinator Andy Gill, 2nd unit director Spiro Razatos and special effects coordinator Patrick White worked closely with Kirk to give the action and spectacle maximum impact. In addition, the filmmakers employed some state of the art tools, including the Warp Cam, a rigged camera on a gyro stabilizer inside a box and held on a long stick; the Edge, a camera attached to a rotating platform mounted to the roof of a car; the homemade Bubble Cam, which is surrounded by rubber flotation buoys so a moving vehicle can crash into the rig without breaking the camera; and a set of drones unleashed above the streets of Philadelphia.

On the set of money launderer Adi's luxury apartment, where an apocalyptic gunfight is waged on both sides of a door, Squares and his team had hundreds of bullet hits rigged in every door and every computer screen within the line of fire. "I've never seen that in a movie," he says. "We went through 300 squibs over three nights and destroyed everything in sight. It was so much fun and looks super cool."

This kind of explosive action is intrinsic to the film's spectacle and thrills, but its makers emphasize that they hope audiences will be equally drawn to its richly detailed characters and their unexpected alliances, betrayals and dynamics.

"We love telling stories, surprising people, and giving them a fulfilling and multidimensional experience," says Joe Russo. "There's a lot of intensity and action in 21 BRIDGES; if that's what you want, it's there and it's a privilege to deliver it," concludes Brian Kirk. "But I think moviegoers will also respond to the evolving relationship between the hunter, Andre, and his prey, Michael. This is a modern noir - a chase movie - that's always about a relationship between two people who thought they had nothing in common, but actually, have everything in common."

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