Brooklyn’s Finest follows the story of three police officers in the 65th precinct of the NYPD. Eddie Dugan(Richard Gere) is the 22 year veteran one week out of retirement (hello cliché!). He is being forced to work with young wide-eyed naive rookies that draw his ire. Salvatore “Sal” Procida (Ethan Hawke) is a devout Catholic with a family of four and two more on the way that rely strictly on his officer’s salary to get by. His mold-filled home is causing health issues for his wife and he desperately wants a new home for his growing family. Clarence “Tango” Butler (Don Cheadle) is an undercover officer in so deep that the lines between right and wrong have begun to blur. He has reached the point of wanting out, having gone so far in that his former life is all but lost.
None of the characters depicted in this film are ‘heroes.’ All of them are deeply conflicted dealing with personal demons that have resulted from their time in the force and the ways it has impacted them in their personal lives and their view point of society. That is also where I felt the film was missing something. It never really defines it’s point. That is not to say everything must have a point. This is one of those films where I felt it had something to say but never really finds a way to present it clearly. Further while the three main characters obviously have severe issues other than some broad lines mentioned about their situations, the film never clearly defines what it is. All three of these men have reached seemingly desperate states that untold hours with a therapist wouldn’t begin to be enough help or deter their reckless actions.
I suppose that may have been the point of the film. It opens with a discussion about being rightly wrong, or something equally paradoxical. By the time the final scene plays out you don’t feel that things have really changed all that much. No one has truly found the redemption they seek, which I am not really sure if that was their motivation in the first place. Several elements in the film reminded me of 2000’s Traffic or 2004’s Crash.
Director Antoine Fuqua most likely best known for his work on 2001’s Training Day continues to prove he can be a very solid film maker given decent material to work with. While he has yet to recapture the critical and box office success of Training Day, and I feel Brooklyn’s Finest is not a threat to it, if he gets his hands on a decent script he could do great things.
Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, and Ethan Hawke all turn expectedly good performances. Hawke stands out in his portrayal of a man as deeply conflicted as ‘Sal’. It seems he is ready to completely breakdown or go completely nuts from one scene to the next. He is the wild card that keeps you on the edge of your seat each time he is around wondering what he may do. Gere’s character is easily the most cliched of the bunch. From the morning whiskey shot, followed by his revolver being placed in his mouth. Cheadle turns in a gripping performance as Tango. Clearly conflicted by request placed upon him and the right action to keep from getting his cover blown. He’s similar to Hawke in that every time he appears on screen you can feel what remnants he once had of control, not to mention any semblance of normal life slowly slipping away. Also worth noting is the return of Wesley Snipes who hasn’t been seen on the big screen since 2004’s Blade Trinity. He reminds you here of how good of an actor he can be, when he is not playing Blade which is almost all I can even remember him being at this point.
A cheery film Brooklyn’s Finest is not. It’s bleak, bloody, and violent. Fans of gritty police dramas will eat up every minute of this film. If none of the previous things are your cup of tea, it maybe best advised to steer clear.
Brooklyn gets 3 “nothing like whiskey and a pistol in my mouth in the morning!(s)” out of 5
by John Coovert