Antoine Fuqua is back behind the lens with his latest directorial effort “Brooklyn’s Finest”. It’s been three years since his last film “Shooter”, and I for one was beginning to miss him. Thanks to his latest film, I’ve gotten my Fuqua-fix. While this film is no “Training Day”, it’s a solid flick. The performances are outstanding and the story is sound. Though, I admit freely I’m a sucker for cop films. Good cops or bad cops, generally I don’t care I just enjoy the movies.
“Brooklyn’s Finest” (which should be called “Brooklyn’s Crookedest”) stars Ethan Hawke, Don Cheadle, Richard Gere, and Wesley Snipes. Hawke, Cheadle, and Gere are cops; Snipes is a thug fresh out of prison. Each character has their own story, which with the exception of a few moments, are quite independent of each other. Each storyline converges on a central location, and meet at the end of the film. Hawke is a NARC officer, Cheadle is undercover in Snipes’ gang, and Gere is a week from retirement.
Hawke is the father of at least five children by my count, and has two more on the way. He’s a good father and a loving husband. He’s a man who would do anything for his family…and he does. He’s determined to get his growing family into a bigger home. However, on his salary he’s finding it difficult to sock away money for the down payment. So, he does what any good and loving father would do in such a situation…he steals it. Though, he doesn’t just steal it, he flat out messes people up to get the money. Using his “in” as a cop he gains access to money from drug busts and so on, he steals and steals and steals. As a result he gets closer and closer to getting caught by all the wrong people.
I loved Ethan Hawke’s performance in this. He was an absolute ruthless monster. His work here reminds me of his role in “What Doesn’t Kill You” where he plays a criminal with a similar flare for violence. The difference between that film, and this one is the flare for violence is turned up to eleven for this character. He lets no one get in his way, and isn’t the least bit shy about doing anything he has to do to get what he needs. It’s as if his character Jake from “Training Day” succumbed to his mentor’s teachings, followed the path to the dark side, and transferred to NYPD. That’s the feeling I got here. Again, I loved him in this film.
Don Cheadle’s character is undercover in Wesley Snipes’ gang and has been for the past several years. The two have a solid history and friendship. They’ve even served time together. Very early on we get the sense that this is more than a simple, routine undercover operation. We get the sense these two are real friends. And in fact, we find out they are. This serves as Cheadle’s character’s main dilemma: “do I do my job and bust this bad guy, or do I cut him a break because he’s my friend and I owe him?” Not only that, but Cheadle’s been undercover for so long he’s tearing at the seams, and wants a regular life again. He meets with superiors several times, and all but begs on his knees to get out of undercover and back into the station with a normal job.
Cheadle’s performance, too, is brilliant. He plays a fast talking gangster just as well as he plays a well-spoken and educated police officer trying to close his biggest case. And he plays both of these simultaneously at some points. I couldn’t get enough of this guy. He used his character’s problems so well and I was completely convinced Cheadle was his character. As a character, his reactions to situations weren’t always good ones but they were so understandable, and so human that it was impossible not to like him. Speaking of human reactions, though kind of messed up in a moral sort of way, I enjoyed where his character ended. I won’t say much about it but his culmination is shocking, but at the same time not surprising given all he goes through.
Richard Gere doesn’t give a stand out performance, but he’s by no means bad. His character serves as the middle ground between Hawke’s, and Cheadle’s characters. Gere’s character is just not that impressive of a guy. Basically, he’s a normal cat who has been a completely average beat cop for twenty-two years, and doesn’t have much gas left in the tank. He is seven days from retirement when the film begins. He is trying his best to stay off the radar until that point. In fact, when asked if he wants to do something that matters with his last “two minutes on the job” he replies, “not really”. That’s about all there we need to know about this guy. He’s a low-key dude most of the film so perhaps that’s why the performance is just kind of…there…and doesn’t stand out.
Snipes did well in his role as a gangster. He’s proven indeed he can act, if given a decent script that doesn’t involve karate and vampires. Similar to Gere though, Snipes’ performance does little to stand out.
All together I feel the story is good. It’s exciting, well paced, and the last fifteen minutes are downright intense. The ending carries an intensity I’ve not seen in a while. Mr. Fuqua’s directing is solid as usual. I am fairly certain this guy cannot make a bad film…though I didn’t see the thing he directed for Playboy. Anyway, as much as I enjoyed this film it can’t touch my favorite film of his, “Training Day”. There was a kind of magic to that film that he hasn’t quite recaptured in his subsequent attempts.