Review: Brooklyn's Finest
PLOT: The story of three unrelated Brooklyn cops, each of whom is facing an ethical dilemma that puts their lives and careers on the line. Eddie (Richard Gere) is a middle-aged beat cop with seven days to retirement, who battles with his own apathy toward the people he's supposed to protecting. Sal (Ethan Hawke) is a NARC with seven kids, and a sick wife to take care of, who finds himself stealing cash from the dealers he puts away. Finally, Tango (Don Cheadle) is an undercover detective, who finds himself identifying too closely with his mark, a recently paroled drug kingpin named Cass (Wesley Snipes).
REVIEW: BROOKLYN'S FINEST is pretty much a greatest hits compendium of cop movie cliches. You get everything here, from the over-the-hill, soon to be retired head case (Gere) who starts his morning with a swig of whiskey and a round of Russian Roulette, to the crooked NARC with a conscience (Hawke), to the burnt-out undercover cop who's in too deep (Cheadle). Over the course of it's 133 minute running time, the film doesn't hit a single original note, and you'll know exactly where this is heading from the first frame.
However, I still had fun with it.
You see, I'm a die hard cop movie junkie. I love 'em, even when they're really cheesy like this one. After a while I just started playing 'count the cliches' with the friend I saw this with, so I had a good time watching it.
Still, I wouldn't call it a good film, as the thing is so over-wrought and melodramatic that it almost becomes a parody despite itself. I mean, Gere goes through two rookie partners, with one of them biting the bullet shortly after telling Gere it's his birthday. As soon as someone says something like that, you know he's a goner- but the film is full of scenes like that. Probably the closest thing I can compare this to is BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS, but at least that was intentionally funny (I think).
Despite the ludicrous script, BROOKLYN'S FINEST does benefit from an excellent cast, with Gere, and Snipes being the highlights. Gere really plays against type here, and at times his performance as the 'seen it all' beat cop reminded me of a similar performance Paul Newman gave in a great film called FORT APACHE: THE BRONX. I've always though Gere was a solid actor, despite the fact that many of the chick flicks he makes are wretched, and it's nice to see him stretch. Cheadle and Hawke are also quite good as the other two cops, but their story-lines are painfully predictable, and the undercover / dirty cop thing has been done to death recently.
Of everyone, Wesley Snipes is probably the one with the most three-dimensional role, with him playing a surprisingly likable and even-tempered drug lord- who comes off a lot more like the more realistic gangsters from THE WIRE (which shares many cast members with the film), than the over-the-top drug baron he played in NEW JACK CITY (although that film is and always will be, a classic). Snipes really delivers in his first big screen role in six years, and if he can escape the direct-to-DVD purgatory he's found himself in, he may yet make a comeback.
As for director Antoine Fuqua, I'll say this: dude sure knows how to stage a nail-biting action scene. While this isn't as heavy on the action as some of his more recent films like SHOOTER, there are a few quick shootouts that are very well crafted, particularly Gere's showdown with a couple of pimps/kidnappers, toward the end of the film. While I'm sure the film would have come off a lot better if he had a decent script to work with, he still keeps the film moving at a fast pace, despite the somewhat bloated running time.
Suffice to say, BROOKLYN'S FINEST isn't a particularly great (or even good) cop film, but if you're a fan of the genre, you'll at least have some fun with it. It's too bad though, as this should have been a lot better considering the talent involved.