Rated R for bloody violence throughout, strong sexuality, nudity, drug content and pervasive language, 140 minutes
Absorbing but familiar cop drama "Brooklyn's Finest"
If you see a policeman, no matter how young or old, there's a story behind the badge, which rings true in the new drama "Brooklyn’s Finest," yet another tale of New York City cops. Antoine Fuqua, director of "Training Day," has assembled a well-acted, intense, graphically violent tale that certainly entertains but falters when it attempts to infuse an otherwise gripping story with one too many jolts.
Burned-out veteran Eddie Dugan (Richard Gere) is just one week away from retirement and a fishing cabin in Connecticut. Narcotics officer Sal Procida (Ethan Hawke) has discovered there is no line he will not cross to provide a better life for his long-suffering wife and seven children. Clarence Tango Butler (Don Cheadle) has been undercover so long his loyalties have started to shift from his fellow police officers to his prison buddy Caz (Wesley Snipes), one of Brooklyn's most infamous drug dealers. With personal and work pressures bearing down on them, each man's story is unconnected but finds themselves at the same crime scene and a crossroad that will forever change them.
"Brooklyn's Finest" is standard, dark cop fare about seemingly unrelated characters related in their desire to better their lives; it starts out well but falters later on in an excessively bloody climactic shoot-out. Of the three stories, Gere's story is more involving though Cheadle gives the strongest performance in an affecting turn as the undercover cop who desperately wants out but is still torn by the relationships he's made in his undercover way of life. It’s nice seeing Snipes back on the big screen again, his first major big-screen effort in 6 years, since his last "Blade" film. He and Cheadle share some nice, unforced moments, though both, especially Snipes, seem far too intelligent to possess real street cred.
As well-acted as "Brooklyn’s Finest" is, the unrevealing, messy script from newcomer Michael C. Martin could use some help – the overlong finale in particular is too bloody and too contrived - making it hard to believe these men who share no connection would end up in the same place. And Hawke's story, though well-acted, doesn't really fit here, not to mention the familiar script treads the same ground as many, many other New York-based cop dramas over the years, from TV's "NYPD Blue" with shades of Sidney Lumet's "Prince of the City" and Fuqua's own "Training Day" (which also featured Hawke) and the film which it most resembles, "The Departed" (Cheadle is essentially playing a version of the Leonardo Di Caprio character here).
Still, Fuqua has the ability to entertain, which he does so with force in "Brooklyn’s Finest," and in between all the blood, bullets, drugs and profane language, watch for stellar supporting performances: Ellen Barkin in a sizzling, very brief turn as a hard-nosed policewoman commander you love to hate. Also, if you blink at the beginning, you'll miss noted character actor Vincent D'Onofrio, who has a quick, unfortunate demise. TV character actor and familiar face Brian O’Byrne (from such shows as "Brotherhood" and "Flash Forward") gives a genuinely sympathetic turn as one of Hawke’s friends.
"Brooklyn's Finest" has no surprises but still pulls a lot of punches and in spite of calculated moves down the stretch, will likely bring out those who enjoy an absorbing, albeit very familiar, cop drama.