Brooklyn's Finest, 2010
Cast: Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes, Jesse Williams, Lili Taylor, Ellen Barkin, Will Patton
Three unconnected Brooklyn cops wind up at the same deadly location after enduring vastly different career paths.
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Perhaps Fuqua set the bar too high for himself in Training Day, or maybe the type of film he’s attempting has been done by other great directors such as Sydney Lumet, but done better. No matter the reason, Brooklyn’s Finest has an abundance of strong performance and a welcome returns on Wesley Snipes, but the final execution of the film just falls short. It’s a gritty and real experience but the message gets lost in the mix of intense violence and poor dialogue.
The problem with the film is that it indulges in too many clichés and stock characters that take away from the story. We are made to watch three different stories that while have potential, really go nowhere we haven’t been before. Fuqua uses predictable moments to convey a characters emotion which further emphasizes the point of the film. But it’s too obvious and draws attention to itself. The movie feels contrived rather than an authentic take on the drug crimes in America.
Richard Gere plays Officer Eddie Dugan a veteran cop who is only a few days away from retiring and is simply trying to get through to the end. Don Cheadle plays an undercover cop who named Clarence “Tango” Butler who finds himself in a Donnie Brasco type of dilemma, struggling to remember his identity against the new identity he created for himself after all these years undercover with infamous drug dealer, Casanova “Caz” Philips played by Wesley Snipes. Finally, in a strong and excellent performance Ethan Hawke is Detective Salvatore “Sal” Procida who is constantly struggling to support his family and finds that he might have to play dirty to provide a better life for them.
Each story finds its strength from the solid and at times exceptional performances from the actors. However there is one exception, and that’s with Richard Gere who doesn’t give a bad performance but his trademark demeanor undermines his role. He has the leading man grin and confident stride that takes the edge off the character. It would have worked better with a different actor, but again, his performance isn’t bad, just not one that fits the mold of the film.
The point the film is making is better done in other films such as Serpico and Fuqua’s Training Day, both films that examine the human story through an urban setting with corruption, drug dealing and violence being a common factor in the characters world, however, it’s how they rise above it or succumb to it that lends the most drama. That is where Brooklyn’s Finest comes up short.
The bleak and dire mood of the film overshadows the story and the characters. Plus, the clichés just keep coming and coming and diminish any possible redemption that could likely save the film. The third act does provide some satisfying moments and some strong acting from a few actors; most notably Don Cheadle whose inner struggle finally comes to the surface and a decision is made as to what identity, what life he chooses to take. It’s an effective sequence.
But that and the Cheadle and Snipes scenes together are the only highlights of this rather disappointing film. Fuqua does allow for his characters to develop over story but the story itself becomes lost in the over the top violence and gritty nature. The story had a lot of potential, but it sacrificed for the sake of the clichés. Although the acting is strong and Wesley does a stand out job, there’s simply not enough to recommend here.