A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Black and Blue is an action movie about a rookie police officer named Alicia West (Naomie Harris) who finds herself being pursued by corrupt cops. The title acknowledges those in the Black community who are aconsistently harassed and mistreated by law enforcement and see the Black police officers who patrol their neighborhoods as traitors. The story takes an anti-police perspective, portraying them as a brutal and powerful gang with limitless power -- except for the courageous, resilient Alicia. She's a tenacious war veteran who returns to her neighborhood to be a positive force and sees the humanity in everyone before her, no matter what "side" they're on. Another character who defies stereotypes is a strong man who shows his emotions. Be ready for lots of gun violence, including a bloody, deadly shoot-out. There are also torturous beatings involving punches, kicks, a metal pipe, and a piece of lumber with rusty nails, and police rough people up. Language is very strong, with uses of "s--t," "f--k," and more; drug dealing is key to the plot. There are frank discussions about race and police brutality, as well as themes of courage, integrity, empathy, and perseverance.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In BLACK AND BLUE, Alicia West (Naomie Harris) is struggling with her identity as an African American cop in a primarily Black neighborhood that doesn't trust the police. Things get even more complicated when her body cam records the murder of a drug dealer by corrupt cops. With most of the police force and criminal underbelly out to get her, Alicia must find a place to hide and upload the footage before the whole system is erased.
Is it any good?
Alicia West is a character who deserves a franchise: a toughie who rises above underprivileged origins to become a champion of justice. Playing a former solider-turned-cop, Harris offers an authentic intensity; through her eyes, viewers see that all of our actions matter, whether it's cops taking a candy bar from a market without paying, a mom not being present for her 10-year-old, or a gangster recognizing when he's made a mistake. Tyrese Gibson plays Alicia's reluctant accomplice with an emotional accessibility that allows viewers to feel the challenges of being a Black man trying to live an honest life in a crime-ridden town.
Black and Blue's suspense is intense, and the action is riveting, but, at its core, this is a street justice film. The movie gives voice to those who are painfully familiar with racial profiling -- and the shame and frustration that come from feeling like you're always under suspicion just because of where you live. It flips the power dynamic by putting cops on the same immoral level as assault weapon-toting drug dealers and then elevates the audience's opinion of the criminals. In a scene in which a gang leader and a dirty detective tussle over a gun, you'll likely find yourself rooting for the former, even though he was just threatening to kill the main characters. Black and Blue offers validation to viewers who are weary of racial injustice. Just be careful not to miss the movie's message: that the lack of trust, empathy, and decency toward one another is tearing us apart.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can discuss the role that race plays in law enforcement action and attitudes. What can be done to counteract institutional bias toward people of color or those who live in impoverished areas?
What techniques do the filmmakers use to make an intimidating drug dealer a sympathetic character? Are you OK with that? Why do you think police corruption is a favorite subject of filmmakers?
How does Alicia West demonstrate courage, perseverance, empathy, and integrity? Why are those important character strengths? Why is she a role model? Why is positive gender and racial representation important?
- In theaters: October 25, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: January 21, 2020
- Cast: Mike Colter, Naomie Harris, Frank Grillo
- Director: Deon Taylor
- Studio: Sony Pictures Releasing
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Great Girl Role Models
- Character strengths: Courage, Empathy, Integrity, Perseverance
- Run time: 108 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence and language
- Last updated: August 21, 2021
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