Archive for ethan hawke

“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+

“Daybreakers” Sheds Some Light on Vampires

Posted in Action, Horror with tags , , , , , , on June 7, 2010 by ericstraus

With the prevalence of vampire film and television shows these days, it’s hard to find any originality in the genre.  HBO’s series “True Blood” has taken an interesting angle, creating a world where vampires are integrated into human society, and the backlash that accompanies such inclusion.  The film “Daybreakers” takes the concept one step further, positing a futuristic world where vampires are not the minority – they are the overwhelming majority, and it’s the humans who are outcasts and must struggle to survive.  Combining elements of “The Matrix” and “28 Days Later,” it’s a decent vampire movie with solid acting, gory blood special effects, and a thought-provoking take on what’s becoming a stale genre.

The film takes place 10 years in the future, and we learn that a vampire virus of sorts infected 90% of the earth’s population in the present day; the virus either killed its victims or turned them into vampires.  This new majority gave the human race a choice – become a vampire, or become food.  So for the last 10 years, humans have been on the run, hiding from the rest of the world.  The vampires have continued living as a civilized society; they all have jobs, apartments, homes, families, etc.  The only changes, major as they are, are that they cannot go out in daylight, and must feed on human blood.  But technology has evolved enough to make vampire life easier – underground tunnels allow vampires to go from place to place during the day, and their cars are equipped with “daylight mode,” where the windows darken and the driver uses several monitors to see outside.  Their food source is at the heart of the matter – major corporations now harvest human blood in mass quantities for distribution.  Vampires line up at Starbucks to get a shot of blood or two in their coffee. 

Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is a hematologist for one of these corporations, working to find a blood substitute so that vampires won’t have to rely on humans for their sustenance.  Dalton is one of a minority of vampires who believe that hunting humans for their blood is wrong – he looks with disdain at the horrific machines that slowly drain naked humans of their blood.  Under the direction of Charles Bromley (Sam Neill), he works hard trying to synthesize a blood substitute because the human population is dwindling, and therefore so is the vampires’ food.  Some vampires have begun transformation due to their starvation, becoming evil, vile creatures with wings and tails, living in the tunnels underground.  Dalton comes across a band of humans on the run, and as he is sympathetic to their cause, he joins them and meets Lionel “Elvis” Cormac (Willem Dafoe), who we learn was turned into a vampire but then changed back through controlled exposure to ultraviolet rays.  Dalton makes it his mission to harness that power so that vampirism can be cured.

The gore is not gratuitous, but we are dealing with blood as a main character of the film, so there is plenty of it to be splattered around.  The film does pose an intriguing societal situation – if Dalton finds a cure, would vampires want to become human again?  Dalton’s brother Frankie (Michael Dorman) disagrees – he tells us he never “fit in” as a human.  But as a hunter of humans for the military, he feels like he belongs, and he rejects Edward’s compassion for the human species.  In reality, this question is true for anyone who has a disability or is not considered to be “normal” – if there was a cure, would you want it?  Or should people embrace who they are, regardless of what they are? 

The vampires do not have the luxury of pondering that choice for long, because in the film, if they kill all the humans, they kill themselves, hence the corporations’ need for a blood substitute.  The dialogue is well-written, the action sequences are fun, and overall, it’s an enjoyable vampire movie that manages to maintain some originality.  The only thing missing was Barry Manilow’s song “Daybreak” somewhere in the film.

Final Grade for Daybreakers: B