Brooklyn’s Finest – Review
Dir: Antoine Fuqua
Whatever you think of the films of action flick director Antoine Fuqua, note that he’s managed to accomplish something that Spike Lee couldn’t; helping Denzel Washington win a Best Actor Oscar. It was the thunderous, malevolent performance in a loud, malevolent film, Fuqua’s Training Day.
Fuqua’s latest, Brooklyn’s Finest, brings more noise – gun claps and malicious roars – as well as more crooked cops and honorable crooks. Even with performances from the cast that are equal to the previous work (all the actors seem desperate to breath life into their characters), the film is ultimately less enjoyable.
Lay blame at the feet of the writer for a plot that seems cobbled together from 80’s urban dramas and The Wire with an attempt at Robert Altman style plot weaving. We follow the stress filled lives of three cops; Don Cheadle’s undercover brother, Ethan Hawke’s desperate narc and Richard Gere as a soon to retire cop detached from the world around him.
Modern movie archetypes abound, what with Wesley Snipes playing that honorable hood just out of jail, (the brilliant) Will Patton as Cheadle’s immediate superior, and Shannon Kane as the hooker, the only person with whom Gere’s cop can communicate his feelings. Things seem so familiar and the themes so obvious and heavy handed (money is bad! Stealing it worse!) that you may wonder how your 10 bucks could have been better spent.
Lurking within the rote crooked cop drama, however, is timely take on the state of the American worker and the American dream. Rather than observe Cheadle’s undercover cop as a cop who begins to sympathize too much with his targets, view him as middle management working hard for a promotion he’s never intended to receive, the carrot of “Detective First Grade” being dangled in front of him as he burns out on a corporate treadmill chasing the golden shield. Don’t simply think of Hawke’s character as a crooked cop jacking thugs for their paper. He’s a working stiff driven to psychopathic behavior from society’s insistence that without a grand home and picket fence he’s a failure as a man. Gere’s worn out cop has taken a bite of the American dream and choked on it, finding it tasteless and dry. The only way to avoid life’s inevitable disappointments and pains are not to live it at all. Clock in, clock out, go home.
Unfortunately, a more focused world view like this is never explored; I had to squint real hard to pick it out, and all the bloodletting and hand wringing tends to obscure philosophical truths. Sure, Fuqua and Martin touch on hot button issues like overzealous cops and racism along the way, but they seem raised to preach rather than teach. While the way each lead resolves his plot line may satisfy morally and viscerally, once you realize what this film could have been you’ll be a little disappointed with the outcome.
2 ½ stars (if you must)
subtract 1 star if you hate Sydney Lumet, whose work this film reminded me of.