The actor will leave the superhero mold for a moment, traversing into cop-thriller territory in ’17 Bridges.’
Once a talented actor joins the Marvel or DC movies, it can prove difficult for them to be thought of as anything but the character they portray in that cinematic universe. In the case of Chadwick Boseman, there’s no doubt he has made a lasting impression as the Wakandan king T’Challa, aka Black Panther, for Marvel. But now the actor will attempt to continue to leave his mark in non-MCU efforts. Next, he will trade in his regal garb for a set of blues.
STX has announced (via /Film) that Boseman will star in 17 Bridges. The action movie will center around a disgraced New York City detective who is given a shot at redemption after being thrown into a city-wide manhunt. And the hunted? A cop killer, on the run from the NYPD throughout Manhattan. The title comes from the 17 bridges connecting the island to the outer boroughs and New Jersey, and they’ll all likely become pivotal plot points as all exits are blocked in the pursuit of the killer.
Boseman is also co-producing the feature, along with fellow Marvel frequenters Anthony and Joe Russo. His first appearance as Black Panther in the Russo brothers’ Captain America: Civil War threatened to steal the show back in 2016, thanks to Boseman’s quiet, deadly portrayal of the superhero. The manner with which he navigated the character’s emotional journey throughout the film was impressive, as well, playing a man bent on avenging his father, who by the conclusion of Civil War comes to a powerful realization about justice and what vengeance can do to people.
As for the remainder of Boseman’s career as the Black Panther so far, his standalone film is an achievement of storytelling and worldbuilding, as well as for its performances. Black Panther brought a new set of intriguing characters to the MCU, all of which made a lasting effect. Yet the title character feels almost sidelined, even muted at times. He is undeniably charismatic but lacks the dramatic effect he has in Civil War. In the Russo brothers’ Avengers: Infinity War, the action scenes with Boseman’s Black Panther during the final fight in Wakanda are appropriately epic. The moment where he and Captain America out-strip the other fighters is an awesome instance that acknowledges the power of both heroes.
Before he made cinematic and cultural impacts as the Black Panther, Boseman’s “thing” seemed to be biopics. His first major film role was that of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, in 42. Just one year later he played music icon James Brown in Get On Up and, in between Marvel movies, he was the Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in 2017’s Marshall. What makes this biopic-focused background so noteworthy are the similarities between these past characters and his superhero role.
The common thread connecting these bigger movies in his career is they all have Boseman playing famous icons, whether based on real people or popular comic book properties. With historical figures, there is already a preconceived idea of who that person is and how they should be portrayed. And the actor wants to do the person justice, or open them up to scrutiny through their performance. With comic book characters, there is a set history behind them as well. There are similar pressures.
For someone like Boseman, who has shown he has immense talent in playing figureheads, 17 Bridges could be an inspiring avenue. Boseman gets the chance to stretch his acting legs, so to speak. This is an opportunity to take on a new, unfamiliar character and make it entirely his own, incomparable to any other version.
The thing about his character in 17 Bridges is that he’s not a big hero, real or comic book variety. He’s a regular, everyday guy, with faults and none of the inflation of personality that comes with fame. An NYPD detective fallen from grace is a very different kind of person for him to play than we currently associate him with. The drama of the film will be high, and it will be nice to see Boseman shine as he navigates these refreshingly open waters.