- Rated R
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All photos © Overture
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ovies with an A-list cast like the one that headlines “Brooklyn’s Finest” typically play the festival circuit as an inexpensive way to promote the film before its release. But despite premiering at Sundance back in 2009, it’s taken a little more than a year for Antoine Fuqua’s new cop drama to arrive in theaters. There’s no good explanation for the delay other than that the movie is so generic in its treatment of the genre that Overture was probably considering dumping it direct to DVD. "Brooklyn's Finest" isn't quite bad enough to deserve that kind of treatment, but the film's complete lack of originality will leave many wondering why it was even necessary to make a movie that we've seen countless times before.
Set in Brooklyn’s crime-ridden housing projects, the film follows three NYPD officers during a tense week on the job when the predominantly African-American population turns against the local law enforcement after an innocent kid is shot and killed by a fellow man in blue. Veteran cop Eddie (Richard Gere) is simply counting down the days until his retirement, but when he’s ordered to show the ropes to a couple of overeager rookies, he’s inadvertently pulled into the chaos of the situation. Meanwhile, family man Sal (Ethan Hawke) is struggling to provide for his wife and kids on a cop's salary, and when he falls short on the down payment for a new home, he considers stealing drug money to help make ends meet. And as for undercover cop Tango (Don Cheadle), he just wants to get off the streets and into a boring desk job, but before he’s promoted, he’ll have to put away a major drug dealer (Wesley Snipes) that he’s grown to respect as a friend.
It’s this final plotline that is arguably the most entertaining of the three stories, namely due to the people involved. Don Cheadle is always riveting to watch on screen, and though he’s not exactly working with grade-A material, it’s much easier to swallow with him in the lead role. Wesley Snipes is also a welcome treat in his return to the big screen, proving that he hasn’t lost his touch amidst all those direct-to-DVD action movies and his highly publicized altercation with Uncle Sam. The rest of the cast, however, leaves much to be desired. Ethan Hawke’s reunion with director Antoine Fuqua might be more noteworthy if he hadn’t already played a variation of this character several times in the last few years, while Richard Gere sort of just sleepwalks through his scenes, clearly unimpressed with the uninspired monotony of his character arc.
And who could blame him? “Brooklyn’s Finest” isn’t just a retread of one particular breed of cop drama, but rather three that have been crammed into the same movie. As a result, certain characters disappear for long periods of time, and though none of the stories have anything to do with the others, the three leads do eventually cross paths in the big finale. It’s just too bad Fuqua couldn’t make any of it more interesting, because while he’s clearly trying to recapture the success of “Training Day” with a return to the genre, “Brooklyn’s Finest” doesn’t have anything that distinguishes it from the pack.
Single-Disc DVD Review:
The DVD release of “Brooklyn’s Finest” is yet another case of a studio settling for quantity over quality. The audio commentary by director Antoine Fuqua is so boring that he even begins to put himself asleep (you can actually hear him yawning throughout the film), while the included deleted scenes are actually just extended cuts. There are also featurettes about the main characters and shooting in Brooklyn, and profiles on Fuqua and first-time writer Michael C. Martin, but they’re too short to be effective on their own.