Archive for brooklyn’s finest

“Brooklyn’s Finest” Lives Up to its Name

Posted in Action, Drama, Thriller with tags , , , , , , on August 5, 2010 by ericstraus

In order for a character-driven drama to succeed, not only do the characters have to be interesting, dynamic and well-acted, but the story has to be engaging as well.  “Brooklyn’s Finest,” directed by Antoine Fuqua, is one such example of a character-driven drama that does succeed.  I’m not sure why this film flew under the radar the way it did; it features A-list actors, a gritty storyline and a very relevant topic.  The acting is superb, the story engaging and entertaining…but it is a very dark film, and perhaps its lack of a “Hollywood” ending is what kept it out of the limelight.

The film follows three separate storylines which never really converge until the very end, but compliment each other very well.  Richard Gere stars as Eddie, a cynical cop who is a week from retirement; he is weary and unenthusiastic about the job, and the only comfort he finds is in the arms of a prostitute.  His final week on the job has him training new recruits, both of which end up in trying situations, giving Eddie even more reason to want out.  But on his last day, after he has turned in his gun and shield, he stumbles onto a missing persons case and tries to find redemption in rescuing a girl from torment.

Ethan Hawke stars as Sal, a vice cop who cares so passionately about his family that he is willing to do anything – anything – to provide for them, which basically means he steals money from drug dealers.  Already having three kids, his wife is pregnant with a fourth and their lowly home has a mold problem and is causing health issues.  Sal is determined to do whatever it takes, whatever the cost, to get money to buy a better home for his family.  But Sal’s passion begins to cloud his judgment, and the lengths to which he will go are tested.

The third plotline revolves around Tango, played by Don Cheadle.  Tango is a cop so deep undercover that he finds it hard to separate his fake like from his real.  He has created a reputation in the drug-dealing world – he is respected and trusted by the crime community.  But he has been undercover for so long that his wife is leaving him, and it is this that drives him to get out of the undercover business.  Complicating things is the release of Caz from prison.  Caz, played by Wesley Snipes, has become a friend to Tango, and becomes the target of the undercover operation.  Tango tries desperately to control things, but his duties as a cop and his undercover life clash to the very end.

Vincent D’Onofrio, Ellen Barkin, Will Patton and Lili Taylor round out the supporting cast, and along with the stars, the acting is fantastic.  Gere’s desperation and depression make us feel like we know his Eddie very well.  Hawke, who seems to be getting typecast lately as a “cop on the edge,” is superb as well.  We sympathize with his devotion to his family and we want him to succeed, despite the way he wants to go about it.  It’s nice to see Snipes back on the screen again – his role is reminiscent of one of his great characters Nino Brown from “New Jack City,” and he plays the cool, bad-ass gangster very well.  Don Cheadle is a terrific actor who does not disappoint in this role – his tug of war between his gangster persona and his cop identity is quite intense.

The gamut of police issues are addressed in the film, from corruption to on-the-job stress, to racial tensions and the use of violence.  While there is no deep message to be found about the police system in general, seeing these issues through the eyes of the characters is very potent and vivid.  The film is dark and gritty, and it’s hard to predict how it all ends.  But it’s definitely fun to watch.

Final Grade for Brooklyn’s Finest: B+