Thursday, August 12, 2010

Brooklyn's Finest

Directed Antoine Fuqua.
2010. Rated R, 132 minutes.
Don Cheadle
Ethan Hawke
Richard Gere
Wesley Snipes
Will Patton
Lili Taylor
Ellen Barkin
Wass Stevens
Vincent D’Onofrio

Three Brooklyn police officers with various problems try to do their jobs and gain control of their personal lives. Tango (Cheadle) is so deep undercover he’s starting to forget who he is. Sal (Hawke) is trying desperately to move his family into a bigger, better house. Not only does he already have six kids, his wife Angela (Taylor) is pregnant. Finally, Eddie (Gere) is a mere week away from retirement. Apathy has set in. He’s also a heavy drinker who happens to be in love with a prostitute.

The question of right and wrong is at the heart of all three stories. More importantly, what the benefits are of each and just who is actually benefiting is analyzed. As we follow these three men, these themes arise time and again. Actually reaping rewards for your work is something that seems just out of reach.

Antoine Fuqua, most known for directing Training Day, crafts another engaging cop drama with three situations that feel genuine and have no easy solutions. In fact, many have compared this to TD but I think that’s a mistake. BF is told in a similar style but is a very different film. TD is much more black and white. There is very clearly a hero and a villain. Here, there are plenty of villains. However, it seems that other villains control our heroes. The powers that be are as self-centered and self-preserving as the criminals they purport to hunt.

If there is a movie BF reminds me of, it’s The Departed. Don’t go getting your panties in a bunch. I’m not saying this is anywhere near as good. I am saying that the storyline with Tango is similar as are the fireworks that play out at the end.

Don’t go looking for a Steven Soderbergh style linking of the stories, either. They’re only connected by proximity. None of our three leads seems to know either of the others and only pass one another on the streets a couple times while on their disconnected paths. I suspect this is the source of much of the hatred directed towards this movie since this gives it a disjointed feel. When we come back to one storyline or another we realize it’s been a long time since. In addition, we keep waiting to see how the stories are linked and though it happens physically, it never does on any level worthy of our anticipation. It could just have easily been three separate movies.

Our three leads all turned in outstanding work. There doesn’t seem to be a sour note hit. It is also nice to see the return of Wesley Snipes from his problems with the IRS and the straight-to-DVD hell his career was stuck in. Among the supporting players, Ellen Barkin stood out and displayed a commanding presence during her few scenes.

For me, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It seems to have received a lot of negative backlash for some of the reasons I gave above. It’s also not one of the best crime dramas of all time, like it was hyped to be. Still, it is a lot more cerebral with less action and more to think about than TD. Like I said, there are no easy answers. The masses tend to shy away from puzzles that aren’t solved for them.

The Opposite View: Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic

What the Internet Says: 7.0/10 on (8/11/10), 43% on, 43/100 on

MY SCORE: 7.5/10

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