Brooklyn’s Finest – Blu-ray Review
By Patrick Luce Jul 2, 2010, 16:37 GMT
Something of a genre homecoming, Antoine Fuqua\'s latest film once again finds him delving into the gritty, brutal realm of cops and crooks—as he did in Training Day. Tango is an undercover officer on a narcotics detail that forces him to choose between duty and friendship. Having been to hell and back, he wants out, but the powers that be won\'t let him quit. Family-man Sal is a detective tempted ...more
With little redemption to be found, Brooklyn’s Finest is a gritty look at the lives of several cops in Brooklyn. The film has shades of director Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day, but without the innocence of Ethan Hawke’s rookie cop. In other words, this isn’t a film for everyone thanks to its dark look at dirty cops, drug dealers and life on the streets of the city.
Directed by Fuqua, Brooklyn’s Finest was written by Michael C. Martin and features a great ensemble cast that includes Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes, Vincent D'Onofrio, Will Patton, Brian F. O'Byrne, Lili Taylor, Ellen Barkin, Jesse Williams, Shannon Kane, and Michael K. Williams.
On Blu-ray, the film is a mixture of gloss and grain that seems to mirror the grit of the streets where the characters work, live and die. It features cinematography work by Patrick Murguia and steady editing work done by Barbara Tulliver - who does a nice job weaving the several stories together by the ending credits.
At its core, Brooklyn’s Finest follows three cops at different stages of their careers and lives. Don Cheadle is an undercover cop posing as a drug dealer and who has been under for so long he has lost his marriage and is starting to forget who he can trust. Ethan Hawke is a narcotics cop who is struggling to make enough money to keep his growing family fed and wants desperately to move his pregnant wife and kids into a better home. Gere plays a street cop set to retire in a week and who is basically looking to serve his final days with as little work as possible.
The three main characters’ lives all intersect in the final minutes of the story, but their stories are cut up throughout most of the film with just the occasional interaction (such as Hawke and Gere having a short conversation while looking over a missing person’s poster). This division of story gives the film a much more epic feeling scope, and helps lift it a tad over the various other gritty cop films of late – including Fuqua’s own Training Day.
All three stories don’t offer much redemption for their characters and it is really hard to like any of these police officers – although there might be some likeability to Cheadle given that he is being used by the very department he dedicated his life to and gave up a marriage to serve. Otherwise, it is hard to like any of the characters in the film – despite the excellent acting Fuqua manages to capture.
Cheadle’s character is so dedicated to making Tango (his drug dealer alter-ego) a credible criminal that he allowed his handlers to put him in prison – where he was able to get in good with drug kingpin Caz (Wesley Snipes), but also had to commit murder to survive behind bars.
Out of prison, Cheadle’s character is looking for a way back to his old life and wants desperately to be reassigned to a desk and a 9-5 shift. However, he starts to have mixed emotions when the path to that desk involves setting up Caz in a drug sting. He also feels the need to protect Caz (who he befriended in prison) from rivals in his own drug empire that are looking to take Caz’s throne.
Our first introduction to Hawke’s Sal shows he is not the good cop that Hawke played in Training Day, and we quickly learn that he has been pushed into a situation where he is breaking the law for his family. He wants to be a good man (even going to confession after killing a criminal and stealing his money), but is forced to break the law so that his pregnant wife and children can have a better home and life.
Sal is on a deadline to come up with the money for a down payment on a new house that his expanding family desperately needs. His wife is sick and the mold in their home is threatening her life; his kids share rooms; and they may have to ship a couple of them off to his sister’s house to just to be able to pay the bills.
With the down payment deadline rapidly approaching, Sal decides he will rip off the drug dealers that his squad is raiding, and pocket as much cash as he can. However, the raids never seem to go down the way he wants, and he becomes more desperate as the film rolls on. By the time the final scene arrives, Sal is a mess and willing to do whatever it takes to give his family the chance he feels they deserve.
Gere’s Eddie wakes each morning with a shot of whiskey, and a revolver in his mouth. He is counting down the days to retirement, but his time on the force has been anything but award winning. He is an average cop, and seems to have spent much of his years getting by on as little work as possible.
He is saddled with a rookie (not because of merit, but because of seniority), and the two instantly clash when Gere refuses to answer a call out of his district.
Later, an off-duty Eddie watches as a woman is thrown into a van against her will; slightly hides in the shadow to avoid conflict with the kidnappers; and does nothing to save her. Instead, he goes to the apartment of a hooker for a good time.
Towards the end of the film, Eddie does have some redemption, but it is a bit of “too little too late,” and a deleted scene shows it did little to change how the character planned to spend his retirement.
Brooklyn’s Finest is a hard film to get through and doesn’t have the same type of building suspense that Fuqua’s Training Day held. I enjoyed the movie and feel that Fuqua truly is a perfect fit for the gritty cop genre. The movie has great performances from its cast, but it just seems so dark and depressing you just can’t find a character to truly care about.
Cheadle, Hawke, and Gere are all excellent in their roles with each actor bringing something different to the screen. They have all played cops several times in their career, but seem to be putting something new into their performances in this film.
Cheadle is all cool as the drug dealer Tango, but a mess as the conflicted cop Clarence Butler. His loyalties are out of whack from too much time undercover and he seems to be becoming more thug than cop – as seen in his violent exchanges with Federal Agent Smith (Barkin).
Hawke is a blend of his cop with morals from Training Day and his damaged cop from Assault on Precinct 13. He does seem to be a good man that has just gotten in way over his head and is being defeated by the economy and a job that doesn’t pay what it should.
Still, the fact that he is willing to kill and robs to get what he needs ends up making him as bad as the criminals he has spent a career putting behind bars. You understand his reasoning for the crimes he commits (or attempts to commit), but you never see him trying to get the money another way.
Gere’s Eddie is probably the saddest character of the film and is a far cry from the cocky Dennis Peck that Gere so masterfully played in 1990's Internal Affairs. Eddie is a guy looking for a way out, and is going to do as little as possible regardless of if it means saving a life.
As the film rolls on, he does start to give a damn (trying to do the right thing at a bad shooting involving a rookie cop), but it is hard to tell if he is doing for some kind of redemption or because life has nothing else to offer him. He had in his mind a relationship with the hooker he spends his nights with, and only decides to do the right thing after his imaginary relationship is exposed for what it really was.
Fuqua and company do a good job of weaving the stories together by the end credits, but the film ends on such a downer note that you may not want to sit through a second viewing. I think the movie will get better with multiple viewings, but it isn’t one you want to instantly watch again – despite the work of its cast.
The Blu-ray comes with some decent special features that take you behind the scenes and give a look at life on the streets. The features help you appreciate what the filmmaker and actors were trying to accomplish with the movie and the level of realism they strived for while filming. There are also several deleted scenes that add to the story – even giving an ending for Gere’s character.
Brooklyn’s Finest is a heavy cop drama that doesn’t shy away from the dirt it finds on the street. It is a dark film, and not one that is easy to get through. The ensemble cast does an excellent job and the film benefits from a director who seems at home in the genre.
Visit the DVD database for more information.
FROM THE WEB
Further Reading on M&CDon Cheadle Biography -
Don Cheadle Links - M&C is not responsible for the content in external sitesEllen Barkin Biography -
Ellen Barkin Links - M&C is not responsible for the content in external sitesEthan Hawke Biography -
Ethan Hawke Links - M&C is not responsible for the content in external sitesRichard Gere Biography -
Richard Gere Links - M&C is not responsible for the content in external sites
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