Det. Jack Mosely, an alcoholic NYPD cop, is given the job of escorting a witness named Eddie from lockup to the courthouse so he can testify. It's only sixteen blocks, but there's a lot of traffic, the witness doesn't trust the police, and the people he's supposed to testify against want him dead...
The problems start when two goons try to kill Eddie in traffic when Mosely stops to get a bottle at a liquor store. Things escalate from there.
This film provides examples of:
- Affably Evil: Detective Nugent is polite, friendly, and rather sympathetic to Jack even while trying to kill him.
- The Alcoholic: Jack, who is seen to drink heavily. He stops off to buy liquor he's bringing Eddie to court, and comes out just in time to save him from a hitman.
- Atonement Detective: Jack, who used to be a part of the group of dirty cops trying to kill Eddie, but who turns against them and goes to great lengths to foil them.
- Covers Always Lie: Some posters depict Jack carrying a USP, a pistol which doesn't appear anywhere in the film (nor is it approved for use by the NYPD).
- Cowboy Cop: Deconstructed. The villains were cowboy cops, not willing to have the law stop them putting criminals away. However, their methods became steadily more brutal as they needed to cover themselves, escalating to threatening witnesses and finally trying to kill them.
- *Click* Hello: Twice. The first time, Eddie keeps talking, allowing Jack to get the drop on one of the corrupt cops chasing him. The second time, Jack pretends to surrender to Nugent while Eddie gets the drop on him.
- Dirty Cop: The villains trying to kill Eddie, who once included Jack.
- Engineered Public Confession: Jack secretly records Nugent admitting to his past corrupt dealings.
- Freeze-Frame Ending: The last shot is a freeze frame where the hero holds up a photograph.
- Heroic Bystander: The ESU Marksman who kills the last bad guy before he can assassinate Jack.
- Hero Insurance: Jack gets only two years in prison even though he took an entire bus full of people hostage, plus whatever other crimes he committed in the past. Justified as he was the prosecution's star witness and thus got a deal for testifying.
- Heroic Sacrifice: As one of the corrupt cops, Jack decides to testify in Eddie's place, allowing Eddie to escape to Seattle while Jack himself is sent to jail for his involvement (though he receives a reduced sentence for his help).
- He Who Fights Monsters: The maverick cops themselves succumbed to this trope prior to the events of the movie.
- Live-Action Escort Mission: The movie. Jack is tasked with bringing Eddie, a criminal witness, into court. Little does he know Eddie is testifying against a gang of dirty cops of which he used to be part, and they're hell-bent on seeing that it doesn't happen.
- Knight Templar: Nugent and his crew. They decided to put criminals behind bars even if that meant breaking the law themselves, but by the time of the film are more concerned with covering up what they've done, even if it means killing a witness.
- Motor Mouth: Eddie, who hardly stops talking when he's with Jack for most of the film.
- Next Sunday A.D.: The movie takes place in 2005, as evidenced by a Wedding Crashers billboard, but the ending takes place a couple of years later.
- Precision F-Strike: "FUCK THE TRUTH!" Nugent tells Jack exactly what he thinks about the idea of coming clean in no uncertain terms this way.
- Rabid Cop: The villains turn out to be the maverick cops who succumbed to He Who Fights Monsters.
- Revolvers Are Just Better: Subverted. Jack goes to his sister's apartment to get his backup weapon, but takes Glocks from several of the cops he disables along the way, preferring to use them.
- A Simple Plan: More than one. Sixteen blocks have never seemed so long.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Jack tries to do the right thing for most of the film, until he threatens to kill innocent bus passengers at the end, just to get Eddie out safely.
- The Mole: The District Attorney's office has one that feeds information to the dirty cops.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Nugents arguments sound reasonable until you consider the bloodshed they require. He doesn't even seem to realize he's the villain.