We have three cops here to deal with in director Antoine Fuqua’s latest film ‘Brooklyn’s Finest’. There’s Narcotics Officer Sal Procida (Ethan Hawke) who is a hard working officer and a devout catholic, though he and his wife haven’t quite mastered that whole ‘rhythm method’ technique because I think they have six kids with two more on the way. There are kids all over the place in the Procida household so I kind of lost count. Sal’s house has mold which is having a negative effect on his wife Angela’s (Lili Taylor) asthma which has left Sal with little option, at least in his mind, but to steal from the drug dealers he’s chasing or perhaps even kill them if necessary to get some much needed loot so he can move his massive brood into a new crib. Gotta do what you gotta do.
Our next cop is deep under cover officer Clarence Butler (Don Cheadle) though he’s known on the street as Tango. Tango has been so deep in the game so long that he’s becoming confused, and he knows this. His wife Alyssa has filed for divorce but what is most tragic about this situation is that we only get to see actress Tawny Cypress, who plays Tango’s wife, through a couple of photographs. It would’ve been nice to have seen this glorious woman in motion at least one time Mr. Director. Anyway, Tango begs his boss (Will Patton) to pull him out and give him this desk job as a detective he’s been bucking for, apparently for years, and while his boss keeps promising him that this is coming, it never seems to arrive. Tango’s life gets more complicated when his main man from prison, we said he was deep undercover, a man named Caz (Wesley Snipes) gets released and is ready to take back his crown as king of the streets. More or less. This cat saved Tango’s life while the pair were in jail and Tango has a genuine affinity towards this guy but Tango’s bosses want Caz’s head on a platter and Caz’s crew has some serious doubts about his commitment to the game.
Finally there’s long time beat cop Eddie Dugan (Richard Gere). A complete and total burnout, Dugan starts his day, on a sheetless bed, by taking a drink of Wild Turkey, putting a gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger. Dugan is not a good cop, has
not been a good cop and will never be a good cop, but he has managed to survive and has seven days to go before he can finally shut it down, but before this happens he is forced to show raw rookies the ropes in his city. The only joy in Dugan’s life is in waiting his turn in line to get to a pretty prostitute named Chantel (Shannon Kane). While watching Eddie wait for some random dude to finish up his business with this whore was plenty nasty, and while I’m totally not down with the ethos of prostitution… I was curious as to how much this rather amazing woman charging. Eddie really hasn’t done anything for anybody his entire career except this one particular night.
What happens this particular night in this city that will bring these three damaged individuals together in this one beat up housing project is that Sal needs his money, Tango needs revenge and Eddie needs absolution. And this is what ‘Brooklyn’s Finest’ is all about.
I enjoy Antoine Fuqua’s movies. Even King Arthur. I like his style as a director, I love the way handles violence in his movies and I am of the mind that ‘Brooklyn’s Finest’ is the best film of Mr. Fuqua’s career. What I’m still waiting for is Antoine Fuqua’s great movie and this one isn’t it. Somewhere down the line I am convinced that we are going to get a ‘Goodfellas’ or a ‘Godfather’ from this director and I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for it to come.
While ‘Brooklyn’s Finest’ might not be ‘great’ it is still pretty good and stands very well all on its own. The story behind these three police officers draws you in immediately which is critical in a movie like this because the actual narrative is very linear, very straightforward and doesn’t bog itself down with any kind fancy twists or sleight of hand, choosing instead to stay out of its own way and let the actors stories pull this narrative through, and it works well.
The performances themselves were an interesting bag. First there’s Wesley Snipes and I’ve seen Mr. Snipes in so many run of the mill Straight to DVD movies… and I’ve seen every last one of them… that you might forget that the man can actually act when he sets his mind to it and his portrayal of a dealer who has probably seen to much was probably the highlight of this film for me, at least performance wise. Or maybe Ellen Barkin’s brief role as the surliest, most distastefu,l most physically unattractive police captain ever. Then there’s Richard Gere. Mr. Gere’s Eddie Dugan seemed a bit off an offshoot from his bad cop role in that movie ‘Internal Affairs’ with the difference this time being this cop is less conniving and womanizing, a character that was in Richard Gere’s wheelhouse, where as this time around the character was more lazy and defeatist. The problem that I had with his portrayal of this character is that there’s nothing in Richard Gere’s persona or attitude that translates into ‘burnout’. Even at sixty something the dude is still too good looking, his hair is styled too perfectly, he’s too clean shaven and carries too much of a ‘presence’ to completely pull this style of character off. Richard Gere sitting around waiting around for his turn with a whore? Nah, I wasn’t buying into that. There was a lot to like about the character and how Gere presented this character but there were some things, probably all within me, that were at odds with this character. Now Vincent D’Onofrio who was in this movie for a flash, him I can see as a burnt out cop waiting his turn for a prostitute, but not Richard Gere. Ethan Hawke and Don Cheadle were both fine in their respective roles and carried the story appropriately.
The film is a bit heavy handed on occasion, there were moments in the film that the narrative seemed scattershot and since this in an action film in many aspects, it will suffer from characters doing things that make little sense in sacrifice to keep the action flowing. All that being said I was entertained by this movie. In consecutive nights I saw screeners of Martin Scorcese’s ‘Shutter Island’… the legend who directed that ‘Goodfellas’ movie we mentioned earlier… followed by this movie, and I personally felt ‘Shutter Island’ went on way too long and this movie, as it turns out, was even longer than that movie. I didn’t feel the length of this movie and that’s a good sign that I was entertained. Now this isn’t the one I’ve been waiting for from Director Fuqua but I know its coming. I can feel it.