Naomie Harris has distinguished herself in a variety of projects, whether she’s playing Miss Eve Moneypenny to Daniel Craig’s James Bond or earning an Oscar nomination for the gritty “Moonlight.”
She’s the kind of talent who takes such command of the screen, filmmakers know that she can shoulder the load when the script might not be up to the highest standard. That turns out to be the case with “Black and Blue,” which casts her as a military veteran turned New Orleans police rookie who catches a couple of other cops being less than legal – and her bodycam catches it, too, ensuring permanent evidence of the wrongdoing. And the bad guys know it.
That makes her a fugitive, since she’s not sure who she can trust … except for a figure from her past played by Tyrese Gibson. Mike Colter (of the television series “Evil”) also factors in as a very angry drug kingpin, and even though the cop on the run is a native of the Big Easy, she finds that geographic loyalty is just about nil as most others leave her to her own inventions to survive.
“Black and Blue” does have a certain kinetic energy as it follows the Harris character step by perilous step through her waking nightmare. That’s thanks also to director Deon Taylor, who notably showed his penchant for telling such tales with the Paula Patton-starring melodrama “Traffik,” which also offered a strong female heroine battling forces including corrupt law officers to survive.
The tradition of movies about honest cops vs. dishonest peers is a long and notable one, encompassing such standout examples as “Serpico,” “Prince of the City” and “Training Day.” Some of them have been more cerebral than “Black and Blue” is meant to be, though the central figure gets ample opportunity to show how smart and resourceful she is. It certainly doesn’t hurt that she has a background as a soldier, which admittedly stacks the odds in her favor as she has to get inventive in outwitting her enemies.
For any and all of its more clever elements, though, the picture also has a lot of genre cliches because of a screenplay that ultimately can’t avoid them. That’s a shame, but if you want to see how much one performer can elevate a movie almost entirely on her own, Naomie Harris offers a textbook example in “Black and Blue.”