Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Brooklyn's Finest


Review by Patrick Hodges

“These streets have an expiration date.”

These words are spoken by Don Cheadle’s character, an undercover officer who goes by the name of “Tango”.  He is one of three Brooklyn police officers whose story we follow in Brooklyn’s Finest, the latest gritty cop drama from Training Day director Antoine Fuqua.

The term “Brooklyn’s Finest” is meant to be a collective description of the New York borough’s police department, but in this case, it’s a bit of a misnomer, given that the three cops that are the central characters are anything but “fine”.  They are all extremely flawed individuals, doing their jobs with varying degrees of quiet desperation.

First, we have Tango, who has been undercover for years and very badly wants out.  His assignment has cost him his marriage and much of his sanity, and wants nothing more than a nice quiet desk job.  But the higher-ups who can make that happen assure him that it can’t happen unless they can break the dealer who Tango has been running with (Wesley Snipes, making his first big-screen appearance in six years).  The thing is, Tango is unsure just where his loyalties lie at this stage of the game.

Then we have Eddie Dugan (Richard Gere), a bitter cop mere days from retirement, frustrated at having to mentor gung-ho rookies looking for ways to get themselves stupidly killed.  His has no family, and only seems to find comfort in the arms of a prostitute (Shannon Kane).  He is angry, broken and possibly suicidal.

Then we have Sal (Ethan Hawke), who has long since crossed the line that cops are not SUPPOSED to cross; killing drug dealers and stealing their money.  His motives are good enough, I suppose:  he, his four kids and his pregnant-with-twins wife live in a tiny house plagued with mold that is seriously compromising his wife’s health, and he needs to find a great deal of cash in order to buy a new house.

Since the entire film takes place in the space of about a week, there’s not much room for character development.  Rarely do we see any of these characters on screen together (and when we do, they don’t interact or even notice each other).  Fuqua attempts a feat of sleight-of-hand at the end, when all three cops find themselves in the same place at the same time, all for different reasons.  Sadly, said plot device is heavy-handed and not even very interesting.

About the only character we are meant to like is Cheadle’s, and not surprisingly, his is the best acting job of the bunch.  The cliché-laden script makes the movie drag even more than its more-than-two-hour length does, and that pretty much took any hope of me enjoying this film right along with it.

Being a supposed snapshot of realism, a microcosm of “life on the streets”, perhaps this is not the kind of movie I’m supposed to enjoy.  But if that’s the case, I would have hoped that it was the kind of movie that I could take some kind of deeper meaning from, but beyond the truism that formed the opening line of this review, I really can’t  think what I was supposed to learn from Brooklyn’s Finest.  So, in the end, all this really is is a the kind of movie that I can’t recommend.

2 / 5 stars

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