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Brooklyn’s Finest (2010) *1/2

March 5, 2010

Written by: Michael C. Martin

Produced by: Elie Cohn, Basil Iwanyk, John Langley, Avi Lerner and John Thompson

Directed by: Antoine Fuqua

Rated R for bloody violence throughout, strong sexuality, nudity, drug content and pervasive language

133 min.

U.S. Release Date: March 5, 2010

After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival and experiencing a relatively slow year in 2009, Antoine Fuqua’s (director of “Training Day”) “Brooklyn’s Finest” finally gets a wide U.S. release.  This film plays much like a big screen adaptation of HBO’s “The Wire”, as it follows several storylines all taking place near the Brooklyn, New York project development known as the “BK Projects”.  A narcotics detective, a veteran patrolman and a deep undercover detective all go through a hell-filled week as a string of cases all come to a head (all within minutes of each other, coincidentally).  “Brooklyn’s Finest” tries to be as gritty, raw, and shocking as “Training Day”, but isn’t quite as cool as big brother in this case.

Ethan Hawke plays Sal, an NYPD narcotics detective who is struggling to make ends meet as his wife is expecting twins.  He is buying a new house for his family so they can have plenty of room for their new additions.  However, every time he and his team make a bust, the temptation to steal drug money gets stronger and stronger.  As the deadline to pay his down payment quickly approaches, Sal becomes more irrational in his lust for money.

Eddie (Richard Gere) is a patrolman in the 65th precinct who only has a week left before he retires from the force.  He has survived the entirety of his career by keeping his eyes focused forward and not getting into more trouble than he needs to.  Eddie has to spend his last week bringing rookies out on the street and showing them the ropes.  Even though he has spent his career as a coward, circumstances force him to confront his problems in his final days as a cop.

Brooklyn drug kingpin Caz (Wesley Snipes) is fresh out of an 8-year stretch in prison and is looking to get back into business.  “Tango” (Don Cheadle) is Caz’s right-hand man, but is also a deep undercover cop who has plans to expose Caz’s drug operations.  As “Tango” spends more time in Caz’s organization, he finds himself getting more and more attached to Caz and finds it hard to separate the good guys from the bad.  “Tango” wants out of his job undercover in exchange for a comfortable desk job, but has to complete one last mission before he gets his big promotion.

All these storylines are pretty cliché on their own, but become slightly more interesting as they are edited together.  However, like I mentioned earlier, “Brooklyn’s Finest” plays like a condensed version of “The Wire”, only not as original or compelling.  Not tooting my own horn, by any means, but about 80 minutes into this film I knew where each storyline was headed.  When the film fails to surprise in its conclusion, it leaves much to be desired.

I usually enjoy Don Cheadle’s performances in the films he has acted in, but I did not buy his character as a high-ranking gangster for a second.  “Tango” is a very articulate pacifist that manages to rise in the ranks of a massive drug organization based in the projects?  I don’t think so.  When viewed in the stark contrast between “Tango” and the company he surrounds himself with, his performance appears even less believable.  I am not sure if this was a conscious decision made by Cheadle and Fuqua to illustrate that “Tango” really did not belong in this situation, or just a misfire, but it did not work for me.  Michael K. Williams (of “The Wire”) who plays a lower-level thug in this film might have worked better as “Tango”.  Williams proved as Omar Little in “The Wire” that he can carry scenes as a lead, and would have been infinitely more believable.

Overall, “Brooklyn’s Finest” is a rental at best.  I can see now why the film had a very critically mixed reception at the 2009 Sundance and then pretty much sat on the shelf for a year.  There were serious scenes that played off as laughable to the screening audience I was with.  Very dramatic turning points for some of these characters bordered on campy and were too outlandish for the grittiness they strived for.  Though I admire some of Fuqua’s past directorial work, I would not recommend that you spend your hard-earned cash on “Brooklyn’s Finest”.

One Comment leave one →
  1. windi permalink
    March 6, 2010 2:00 pm

    Hmmm… Previews for this movie seemed really good. Matt was saying he wanted to go see, I was on the fence. I’m iffy about cop movies anyway. I think we’ll just wait and see it as a rental, that way if we don’t like it, it’s not too much money out of our pocket! :)~

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