Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Brooklyn's Finest Casting Arrested By Procedural

Brooklyn's Finest

The title in Antonie Fuqua's latest film, Brooklyn's Finest, is a reference to police officers but I think it is more suited for the film's casting. The most significant thing about Finest is the number of actors that appear over the course of the film. It seemed like every two minutes a familiar actor makes their cameo on screen. I guess they all must have been really passionate about the material; it is just too bad that this same passion did not translate into a better film.

Brooklyn's Finest follows three separate police officers as they struggle with what their jobs have turned them into. Eddie (Richard Gere) is a seven days from retirement and wants to do his time and go home. Jaded by all that he has seen and done, Eddie struggles with alcohol addiction and his desire to commit suicide. Eddie's retirement plans our complicated when he is asked to show a new recruit the ropes. Sal (Ethan Hawke) is a narcotics officer struggling to provide for his family on a cop's salary. When the mold in Sal's home starts to make his wife (Lili Taylor) sick, Sal is determined to get his family into a new home at all cost. Even if that means stealing money from the drug dealers he arrests. Tango (Don Cheadle) is an undercover cop who has been under for far too long. He starts to question whether drug dealers like Caz (Wesley Snipes) are any worse than the upper police brass who care more about looking good in the papers than they do about crime on the streets.

As I mentioned above, the casting is really strong in this film. Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, and Ethan Hawke are all vastly talented actors who try their best to overcome the shortcomings of the material. Cheadle was the standout for me, though Hawke's story line does get the most screen time. Personally, it was nice to see Wesley Snipes back on the big screen in a significant role. He looked far more engaged here than he did in The Art of War II: Betrayal, which was the last film I saw Snipes in. The supporting players are equally strong with actors such as Vincent D'Onofrio, Ellen Barkin, Will Patton, Michael K. Williams, and pretty much the bulk of The Wire cast all taking small roles in the film. At times you will get so distracted by the actors on screen that you almost forget how formulaic the movie is.

Brooklyn's Finest strives to be a gritty cop drama were all the characters live in that grey area of life. The film even opens with a discussion on how sometimes breaking the law is actually a good thing for bad people to do in times of crisis. Yet the true murkiness is not found on the hard Brooklyn street but in the film's script. The picture is a slow burner that actually starts off very promising. Antonie Fuqua's film teases us at first, just when you think the payoff is about to happen...he decides to keep you dangling just a little longer. Unfortunately we are dangling for so long that Fuqua give us, unintentionally of course, a film with two endings. The first one is what I like to call the "false ending." It is the point in the film where, if the credits began roll, you would feel like you had a satisfying experience. I will not give away the details but will merely say it is the redemption moment for the characters. It is where they wake up and realize that they need to start making better choices.

The only problem with this style of ending is that it does not fit with the usual aesthetics of an Antonie Fuqua film. After seeing seven of his nine films, the one thing I have come to expect from Fuqua is some sort of shootout or action sequence to cap things off. A film is not over until the body count rises and the characters are all out of bullets. Which brings me to the preposterous final act of the film, or the "official ending" if you will. This is where all logic is thrown out the window and the men find themselves in the same housing complex in "Dirty Harry" mode . It is at this point in which both the story and the characters lose all credibility. By time the film ends we feel nothing for these characters or the situations they found themselves in. Brooklyn's Finest might have actually been a decent film without this ending. Sure it would still be formulaic but enjoyable nonetheless. Sadly the final act of the film is so bad that it is tough to recommend this film on any level.


  1. I think Fuqua should do something besides a gritty police procedural...

  2. @Simon - Agreed. He made a documentary a few years back, Lighting in a Bottle...or something to that effect, which was actually quite good. I thought he would have branched out more after that. I guess cop films are what pay his bills.

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  4. The performances were outstanding if only the script were better this could have been really great.

  5. @Cmrok - The film had a lot of going for it in the beginning but just fell apart at the end. Which is really sad considering the great cast the film has.


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