Stefan Ellison’s review published on Letterboxd:
There are several cop movies out there, so trying to put a unique spin on the genre can be difficult. Black and Blue attempts to look at the racial conflicts with police men and those are important themes to explore. However, the film eventually just becomes a standard shoot-‘em-up and as it plays on, the characters start becoming more like broad stereotypes rather than fleshed out people. Director Deon Taylor does try to bring some element of tension to the story, but Black and Blue just starts to tire after a while once the obvious pieces come together. Even with a solid lead performance from Naomie Harris, the movie can’t rise above its many faults.
At the very least, Taylor is able to properly establish the main characters, their back stories and how they tick. Unfortunately, most of that development comes in the early part of the film. The social commentary isn’t explored as much as it should be as the film opts for heavily edited action scenes over trying to make a strong point. Harris’s rookie cop Alicia West is immediately sympathetic and the movie does show the racism and sexism she has to deal with on a daily basis. Once the plot kicks into high gear, though, that’s when Black and Blue starts to become less interesting.
The film tries to create a friendship between West and Tyrese Gibson’s convenience store employee and it does show their growing trust over time. The rest of the characters are all simple and broad personalities. The villains are generic baddies and the movie doesn’t attain the needed suspense when they begin to chase West. The drug dealers who end up in the middle of this predicament are similarly drawn without much characterization beyond mere stereotypes. Other residents in a dilapidated apartment complex are also introduced early on and ultimately prove inconsequential for the most part. Eventually, the movie gets more predictable and the action relies more on shoot-outs.
Naomie Harris is definitely able to rise above the material, showing West’s fear as she faces off against these corrupt narcotics officers. The movie might be at its best when we’re just getting to know her. However, the action scenes with guns a-blazing start to bore after a while and the dialogue is incredibly on-the-nose. Either the film spoon feeds us exposition or the messages are featured in giant neon letters. Deon Taylor does try his best, but the screenplay needed a few more polishes. The amount of contrivances is also enormous as everything falls neatly into place, just when the plot requires it to.
If Black and Blue had been a simple cop movie, that would have been fine. The social commentary it wants to tackle is also important, but the characters aren’t properly developed enough. West’s inner conflict of wanting to be a respected police woman who doesn’t sacrifice her racial identity is a good one to explore, but the film doesn’t touch on this for most of its screen time. The action eventually gets tiring and the story goes through the motions at every turn. The ingredients were there for an entertaining and thought-provoking look at the tension between cops and the communities they patrol, but Black and Blue doesn’t quite get there.