Brooklyn's Finest – Review


Because Brooklyn’s Less Than Mediocre just doesn’t sound right

When it comes to the three part story (introduction, exposition, conclusion), Antoine Fuqua can never seem to get more than two of the three done well enough to cover for the one act he somehow manages to make boring. One only has to look at his resume to see that despite the fact that he’s made a number of films with iconic moments, he has yet to make a complete film.

Training Day was a great thriller that turned into a generic action film. Tears of the Sun had a sloppy introduction before over 90 minutes of brilliant execution. The Replacement Killers had one of the best opening acts of the ‘90s before turning into a neutered, sputtering John Woo flick. And in his latest opus, Brooklyn’s Finest, a bloody and tightly-spun final act can’t save a film that sputters in its opening two acts. Finest is the story of three cops whose lives manage to overlap:

Dugan (Richard Gere) is on the verge of retirement, wanting to walk away after being burnt out from years of dealing with the worst of the worst. After days with a rookie partner as part of a new NYPD program to help better train new officers, and nights spent with his prostitute girlfriend, Dugan wants out as quick as possible without doing anything of meaning (or anything with danger).

Tango (Don Cheadle) is an undercover cop assigned to help bring in Casanova (Wesley Snipes), a drug kingpin recently released from prison. The problem is that Casanova is also his friend, having saved his life in prison. Tango has been undercover so long that his loyalties come into question and he’s beginning to doubt which side he’s on.

Sal (Ethan Hawke) wants a better life for his family but can’t afford it on a police officer’s salary, compromising his morals and potentially his life by cutting some corners. Desperate for money to put a down payment on a larger house, he becomes desperate enough to break the law and justify stealing money from low-lives. By the end, the three’s lives will intersect in a deadly finale. And the film’s final act is tightly set up and developed; it’s a shame because it should be in a better film.

It doesn’t suffer from poor acting, that’s for sure. With three talented, veteran actors available, it’s the supporting cast that steals the film. Vincent D’Onofrio provides a great moment to open up the film with Hawke, Ellen Barkin manages to exude equal levels of malice and authority as the FBI agent trying to convince Tango to bring in his friend and Snipes gets his first real meaty character in what seems like decades. In a limited role that brings out the sort of nuanced performance he left behind as a direct to video action star, Snipes shows off some of the talent that made him a star nearly two decades ago.

He’s interesting to see in the role, especially considering his inspired performance in New Jack City in a similar role. Casanova is a man who was once untouchable then became quite touched, spending almost a decade in prison. Gone is the aura of invincibility that he would’ve had before as a criminal fiend. He’s a criminal who’s been Nino and had it all taken away, giving him the knowledge that bravado masks in a lesser experienced man. While his final fate is a screenwriting cheat that takes away the inherent interest in his story arc (and by proxy, that of Tango), it’s nice to see Snipes do more then just snarl and look mean.

And if this was 2000, the film would feel fresh and original because the crime thriller / cop film genre was just starting to really develop again. But there’ve been an armful of films that have come out and done this same sort of story-line, and done it better, to expose the film for what it is: lacking of any true substance. There’s a reason why the alcoholic, burned out cop is a screenwriting cliché and a genre staple; it’s easy to do and gives you just enough perfunctory material to feel like you have a complete character. The problem begins when that’s all you have, which is Brooklyn’s Finest downfall: The film feels like a retread of every other cop and crime thriller of the last decade.

Fuqua has essentially taken the best bits and pieces of other, better, films in the genre and mashed them into one. Everything about how the film gets there feels lifted and inferior; what should be an emotional finale ends up feeling quite flat. The resolution to Tango’s dilemma is nearly insulting as well; it’s an easy way out instead of providing the much more in-depth and interesting resolution it deserves. And that’s a good of way describing the film, too. This is a film which takes a lot of easy ways out to what could’ve been a great crime flick.

Director: Antoine Fuqua
Notable Cast: Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke, Don Cheadle, Wesley Snipes, Jesse Williams, Ellen Barkin, Vincent D’Onofrio
Writer(s): Michael C. Martin

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