Brooklyn’s Finest Review

(2.5 STARS)

Director Antoine Fuqua is more than capable of creating a compelling crime drama. His Training Day proved that. But his latest, Brooklyn’s Finest, is a frustrating hodgepodge of cop-movie clichés and unfocused ideas. The film’s structure is great. It recalls Crash, and sets up a film that seeks to explain a different culture—one in which the line between right and wrong (or as one character describes it, righter and wronger) is blurred, if not invisible. But the need to bring the storylines together ruins the film. It also makes it at least thirty minutes too long. Fuqua had me hooked for a while, but ultimately, Brooklyn’s Finest is a failure.

Brooklyn’s Finest tells the loosely connected stories of three cops in Brooklyn’s 65th precinct, New York’s most crime-filled area. Sal (Ethan Hawke) has a loving family and the respect of his peers. But his meager salary isn’t enough to provide for his family, so he takes to pocketing money from his drug busts. Eddie (Richard Gere) is seven days from retirement. He has no desire to go out in the field and train rookies. He just wants to keep his head down and spend as much time as he can with his prostitute girlfriend. Finally, there’s Tango (Don Cheadle), an undercover cop who’s beginning to crack. When his superiors ask him to set up a known drug dealer (Wesley Snipes), who happened to save Tango’s life years earlier, he has to decide if the promotion he so desperately wanted is still worth it.

I really liked the first hour of Brooklyn’s Finest during which Fuqua introduces us to these characters and develops world in which they operate. The three storylines are independent of one another, and they serve as a cross-section of what any precinct might look like. The clichés are evident from the start, but it felt strangely unique what it was trying to do.

Something changed very suddenly, however. Fuqua began demonstrating the parallels among the three characters. They began bumping into one another. Then, he throws them and the supporting characters all together for one climactic showdown. With such stock characters and situations, Fuqua needed to make some strong philosophical points for this film to work. He started out doing just that, but for whatever reason decides to abandon his points in favor of character “development,” silly twists, and tepid shootouts.

At least the film features some very solid acting. The best of the main trio is Ethan Hawke. Sal’s story is tragic. He’s the guy everyone is envious of, yet he puts it all on the line time and time again for money. Cheadle is also quite good. His story is the most interesting of the three, and he gives us a man who isn’t sure what side he is on anymore. Richard Gere isn’t as successful as his costars. He phones it in the same way his character phones in his last few days on the job. There’s also a tremendous supporting performance by Ellen Barkin as Tango’s ball-busting superior. She makes your blood boil in only a few scenes.

Fuqua hasn’t done much worth noting since Training Day, and while Brooklyn’s Finest demonstrates, in parts, what the director is capable of, it will ultimately go down as another miss on his resume. I think it’s time for him to step away from corrupt cops and conflicted criminals. It’s not because he can’t handle it, but rather he has gone to the well a few too many times. Brooklyn’s Finest is fine enough, but between the clichéd material and the unfortunate direction in which Fuqua takes the film, it doesn’t measure up to what it could or should be.

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