July 15, 2010
Review - " Brooklyn's Finest " - (on DVD) By Roland Hansen
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Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes,
Vincent D'Onofrio, Ellen Barkin.
Director Antoine Fuqua's bad cop-bad cop movie looks like a bleak
follow-up to "Training Day." Ethan Hawke's ethical rookie cop in the 2001
movie has seemingly moved from L.A. to Brooklyn and crossed over to
the dark side. He has plenty of company walking the questionable edge
of the thin blue line.
Sound familiar? After Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" and television
fare like "The Shield," the dirty-cop genre feels as weary as the
policemen patrolling the urban jungles. Fuqua has spit-polished the
production with his signature flair, giving the movie's dangerous exteriors
a slick yet ominous visual look. And the tension? Tautly stretched from
start to finish.
But somewhere along the way, the message gets cut down by bullets
and drowned in blood. Too bad. Screenwriter Michael C. Martin sets a
promising philosophical tone with the first dialogue exchange as Carlo
(Vincent D'Onofrio) sits in a parked car with Sal (Hawke), talking about a
case not being about "right and wrong but righter or wronger." The
narrative threads three storylines about stereotypical cops in different
phases of their career and with different moral dilemmas: the burned-out
patrolman (Richard Gere) slated for retirement in seven days, the
narcotics detective (Hawke) in need of money to provide for his sick wife
(Lili Taylor) and growing family, and the undercover cop (Don Cheadle)
who befriended a drug kingpin (Wesley Snipes) but wants his life back.
In one powerful scene Sal goes rogue cop to steal money from a big-time drug operation. As he moves alone through the
apartment, blowing people away and rifling through cupboards for cash, the word "money" resounds repeatedly from the
song lyrics playing on the radio. Sal can think of nothing else.
Unfortunately, there's nothing else for the viewer to think about either.
The cast performs with such intensity that the characters are riveting, even when their choices make little sense other than to
pump up the action. Violence erupts out of nowhere, surprising the viewer as much as the victim. Sal, in particular, wields the
way of the gun with the same disregard for human life as the drug dealers operating in the highest crime precinct of Brooklyn.
That's the point. Good cops turn bad. Innocents die. The projects become a tinderbox, and police cover-ups ensue. The
NYPD stories play out
independently, until they
conveniently - and
unconvincingly - cross paths in
"Crash" fashion at the blood-
splattered climax. Without ever
giving the audience a sense of
who these characters are or
why they're worth caring about,
"Brooklyn's Finest" moves
toward its triple climax, in which
the three stories will converge
and diverge in ways that don't
quite explain why they were all
part of the same movie in the