Black and Blue, a crime thriller from Sony Screen Gems, premieres in theaters on October 25th. Based on the trailer, it’s a fast-paced action-filled story about a cop named Alicia (Naomi Harris) who finds herself in trouble with both sides of the law for trying to do the right thing. But a closer look at the themes at hand reveal that Peter A. Dowling’s script is also an introspective exploration of the role police play in their communities.
Naomie Harris’ star turn in Black and Blue is no coincidence, as director Deon Taylor explained that Alicia’s identity is at the center of the film – and the reason he chose it. At a recent press conference, he admitted that when he first read the script, he had never seen a film based around a female black police officer before. As a filmmaker, “you try to find stuff that people haven't done; you try to take chances.” Aside from providing the story with a unique perspective, Alicia’s position also created a gray area that the film’s title extrapolates on. Like Officer Brown (James Moses Black) tells her in the trailer, “You’re not black, you’re blue now.”
Taylor went into depth on the subject by using the metaphor of Time Magazine’s Ferguson cover, which showed a line of primarily white cops all with shield and riot gear. “At the very end of that line is one black police officer, holding the line with a tear,” the director went on. “That's what this movie represents. Because at the end of the day, if you are a black police officer, and you're trying to do it right, and you've put in these high impact neighborhoods – how do you make a difference? How do the kids see past you just being blue?”
It is this very real and dangerous tension that Black and Blue contends with, as Alicia must face the fact that her own community does not trust her because of her job as a police officer. It’s also what makes her interactions with Mouse (Tyrese Gibson) so impactful in the film, as he is the one character willing to “break code” to pursue the truth with her. Taylor described the biggest questions in the film as, “How does Mouse view Alicia in the movie? What is the conflict there? How does she deal with the day-to-day?”
Despite coming from the inner city and dealing with racism herself, Alicia finds that she’s being seen as an agent of systemic racism even when she wants to help. “She has to find out in a very, very hard way that people don't view her as a black female cop. They view her as a cop,” Taylor added. “And she's trying to make the breakthrough.”
On the flip side, Frank Grillo plays the corrupt cop who sets off the plot of Black and Blue by illegally killing a drug dealer. “He represented that weight that I needed on the other side of her,” Taylor said. “He's been a cop on the force for 20 plus years; he's a narc. There's a way that he learns, and he knows how to patrol the area. It might not be the right way, but that's what he knows.” The central conflict of the story is thus what happens when “these two come together with two completely different agendas on how you’re supposed to patrol the area.”
Grillo added that his character represents what is hopefully a dying breed. “It's time for that one change to happen, and that is the through line. There should be that moment that you realize, ‘I'm a dinosaur now.’ Dinosaurs are extinct. At some point, guys like me have got to go away.” The director agreed with his assessment, concluding that, “I think the biggest message in the entire film is ‘Be the change.’ That's what the movie’s about.”
Whether Black and Blue succeeds in being the change on its own or not, hopefully it will inspire audiences to have the necessary conversations about change in their own communities. With a cast and director so committed to telling such an important story, it can hardly fail to get its message out.