Naomie Harris takes the lead as a rookie cop now back on her old home ground of New Orleans.
She’s a blue now, and her blackness won’t cut her any slack with the angry black community whom the police have practically abandoned in the post-Katrina desolation.
On what feels like her first day, Naomie witnesses narc cops murdering some local dealers and suddenly she’s wanted dead by corrupt police and angry ghetto leaders. Whom can she trust? Where can she run? And can her honestly make any difference?
The movie prefers to concentrate on the action scenes – the jumping over garden fences, the hiding under houses, the self-fixing of gunshot wounds – that hardly elevate this film above standard genre stuff. But when it does get political about race and and identity, it becomes more interesting, anchored by Harris’ empathetic performance.
It’s great to see her pull this average stuff off. It’s what happens after Oscar nominations: you get tried out in a few genres to see where audiences like you – expect to see her in a so-so romcom and a messy sci-fi pretty soon.
Here’s she’s helped by handsome support from Tyrese Gibson and some cool photography from Dante Spinotti who can conjure up shadows and industrial greys in his sleep.
But Naomie’s eyes are way too intelligent to ever let her down. She can read a crap line with conviction (what fun it must be to finally get to bark: “Haul his ass to jail”) and her face is always one step ahead of the character the rest of her body is disappearing into.
Here she displays naivety, smarts, anger and vulnerability sometimes all in one shot and alongside the running, climbing and shooting you need for an action movie. Thus she brings watchable star quality and admirable dignity to an essentially tawdry film. She makes it worth the ride.