2005’s 16 Blocks is something of an under-appreciated action-thriller from director Richard Donner starring Bruce Willis, Mos Def, and David Morse. A buddy movie of sorts, 16 Blocks feels like the point where Donner’s Lethal Weapon franchise converged with Willis’ Die Hard series. You could argue that the film plays more like a Die Hard movie than the last two instalments of the franchise.
Written by Richard Wenk, 16 Blocks plays out in real-time as Willis’ acholic NYPD Detective, Jack Mosley attempts to escort witness, Eddie Bunker (Mos Def), the 16 blocks from the local precinct to a courthouse so he can testify at a police corruption trial. The thing is – Mosley’s friend and fellow police officer – Frank Nugent (Morse) doesn’t want Bunker to make it to the courthouse.
Yes, it’s loaded with action, but 16 Blocks‘ key focus is friendship – a theme which is a through-line through Richard Donner‘s career as a director. Whether it’s the broken friendship with Morse’s Nugent or his growing relationship with Def’s Bunker, 16 Blocks follows a redemption arc for Willis’ character – a man given one last chance to do the right thing. The film marked Richard Donner’s final film as director – although when he died, he was attempting to make a fifth and final Lethal Weapon film.
Budgeted at $55 million, 16 Blocks grossed $36.8 million at the U.S. box office and $28.7 million in other territories for a $65.6 million worldwide total following its release in 2005.