Directed by Antoine Fuqua. Starring Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke, Don Cheadle, Wesley Snipes, Will Patton, Ellen Barkin, Shannon Kane, Brian F. O’Byrne, Lili Taylor, Vincent D'Onofrio. (2010, R, 140 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 5, 2010
Back at the beginning of the decade, Fuqua’s direction of the gritty cop movie Training Day led Denzel Washington to a Best Actor Oscar win and earned co-star Ethan Hawke a Best Supporting Actor nomination. Hawke is back for another go-round in Brooklyn’s Finest, Fuqua’s latest cop opera, where he’s joined by Gere and Cheadle in the lead roles. Sadly, none of these fine actors are likely to garner nominations come the 2010 Oscars. Even in the film’s supporting roles, a lot of terrific actors portray characters who are let down by this film’s rudimentary and cliché-ridden script by first-timer Michael C. Martin. Fuqua’s visual flash and a good cast in low simmer make the ironically titled Brooklyn’s Finest consistently watchable, but the tired story and an outlandishly overinflated third act make this film no more than a passing eccentricity. The three central figures are all policemen in Brooklyn’s 65th Precinct, a rundown inner-city enclave that houses a sprawling, 18-building housing project, where much of the film’s action and blood-soaked, overwrought finale occurs. Each man follows his own narrative trajectory; each is unknown to the others, although Fuqua causes their paths to visually cross a few times before culminating each cop’s separate story on the same fateful night. At first introduction, each man seems more criminal than coplike. Eddie (Gere) is one week away from retirement after 22 years on the force, during which time we’re given the impression that he did as little as possible. Sal (Hawke), a Catholic family man with five kids and twins on the way, commits desperate acts to get the money for a down payment on a bigger house that won’t have the mold in the walls that is making his asthmatic wife (Taylor) ill. Tango (Cheadle) has been working deep undercover so long that his wife has filed for divorce, but before his superiors (Patton and Barkin) will cut him loose and give him a promotion, he is required to do one last dirty job. We have seen all these characters before: the dirty cop, the hours-from-retirement guy, and the covert agent who just wants his former life back. Neither Martin’s script nor Fuqua’s directorial point of view elaborate on or reveal the nuances of these predicaments. Seemingly left on their own to invent the substance of their characters, the three main actors deliver below-par work, with Hawke going off the dramatic rails during his character’s moral descent while Gere and Cheadle’s cops largely remain dutiful ciphers. Their three storylines move steadily forward until they congeal into voluminous pools of blood in the film’s preposterous finale. “There’s only righter and wronger” observes the character played by D’Onofrio (who only appears in the film’s opening scene). This vague ideology seems to be the film’s overriding sentiment. That said, Brooklyn’s Finest is mo’ wrong than right.