NYPD cop Sal (Ethan Hawke) feels so much family economic pressure he's breaking the law more than upholding it. Deep under cover, Tango (Don Cheadle) is within reach of a desk job promotion when Caz (Wesley Snipes), a friend who saved his life, gets out of jail. Alcoholic Eddie (Richard Gere) is seven days from retirement when he's informed that he's to mentor rookies in the district's highest crime area. These are "Brooklyn's Finest."
Working with a first script from Michael C. Martin, Antoine Fuqua gives New York three levels of the rot he explored in L.A.'s "Training Day," and, unfortunately, only one and a half of them work. "Brooklyn's Finest" is a top notch production with slickly choreographed scenes and it's great to have Wesley Snipes back in such fine form, but Ethan Hawke's character is all wrong, Gere's isn't given enough back story and the three threads are too loosely woven across Brooklyn's BK housing project. More cause and effect among the characters would have made for a richer viewing experience.
The always reliable Don Cheadle is just right playing on both sides of the law. He fits right into the drug hustling world where he's under cover and we can feel the frustration of wanting out when he meets clandestinely with Lt. Bill Hobarts (Will Patton). But things get complicated for him when Special Agent Smith (Ellen Barkin) decides to wants to take Cassanova Phillips down and his promotion hinges on orchestrating the old drug dealer's downfall. This is the most interesting of the morally conflicted tales, a low level "Donnie Brasco." But even here there are excesses, namely in Ellen Barkin, who could have been replaced with a pit bull for a more nuanced performance.
Ethan Hawke's story is the weakest - in fact, at times it's downright laughable, and it's not helped at all by the actor who, instead of seeming desperate, seems like he's trying to grab Denzel's mantle as evil incarnate. When he's not snuggling his kids and guiltily attending to his pregnant, asthmatic wife that is. The script makes note that NYPD officer salaries start in the low 20's, but Sal is no green recruit, no beat cop. His wife Angela (Lili Taylor in a sainted 'I only need you, Sal' type of thankless role) is heavily pregnant with twins in a home already out of kid's bedrooms. The house also has wood mold which is impacting Angela's ability to breath. When we first meet Sal, he's already in this for murder and his above board partner Ronny (Brian F. O'Byrne) waits too long to save him.
Eddie's introduced waking up to a solid slug of Scotch. He's a burn out who gets no respect from his peers, but we never find out what's made him that way. Eddie's big dream is to make an honest woman out of the hooker, Chantel (Shannon Kane, TV's "All My Children"), he sees on a regular basis and take her away with him. But first, he has two recruits to get through in one week - the first despises him to ironic end, the second reaffirms Eddie's better judgement. Eddie's the only character given a shot at redemption, and while Martin has written a nice parallel to Chantel's character, that redemption would have been better earned had we had more insight into just what Eddie was redeeming himself from.
The film is beautifully constructed (the characters cross paths subtly) and shot (one rooftop scene between Tango and Caz features twinkling lights in the background of pale blues and olives which offset their wardrobe) and Fuqua knows his way around action choreography. The climax also has a raw power. But the differing strength of "Brooklyn's Finest's" three threads weaken the whole cloth. C+
Robin did not see this film.
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