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Brooklyn's Finest

2010-07-15 13:56
Brooklyn's Finest

What it's about:

An undercover agent finds himself caught between his job and a newfound friendship with a leading criminal that he's investigating; an old, disgruntled veteran has to deal with a final week on the job before retiring and a good cop is tempted by corruption as he finds it harder and harder to provide for his ever expanding family. 

What we thought:

If the above scenarios feel overly familiar, it's only because they are. It's hard not to expect some familiar tropes and conventions when dealing with so well-trodden a genre as noir/crime thriller but Brooklyn's Finest's greatest failing is just how strongly it embraces them. This is more the pity because there is certainly much to admire about the film.

Antoine Fuqua is hardly a stranger to the genre as he rose to prominence with the award-winning and attention-grabbing Training Day. For all of my problems with Brooklyn's Finest, there's no denying that the guy is a hell of a director. Presumably taking a cue or two from the acclaimed TV show The Wire, Fuqua makes the New York borough of Brooklyn every bit a character in the film as the cops and criminals – if not even more so.

Full props also have to go to his cinematographer, Patrick Murgia and the entire sound department for so vividly bringing the city to life. The ominous sound of a great, rumbling train is an omnipresent part of the soundtrack, giving the city not just a very particular, workaday feel but, by constantly hinting towards – but never showing – a world beyond the grimy city, it only adds to the frustration that most of the characters in the film explicitly exhibit. The look of the city is similarly intriguing as Murgia paints a place where, for all of the concrete ugliness of the streets themselves, it is surprisingly beautiful at the same time – especially when viewed from a distance. It's a perfect visual metaphor for a city that is a hub of buzzing human life that nevertheless plays host to a cornucopia of despair and viciously violent crime.     

The performances too are strong throughout. Richard Gere is at his most watchable here, while Ethan Hawke and Don Cheadle bring their considerable A-game to the table. Supporting and incidental characters are no less expertly portrayed, most notably – again tapping into The Wire (if you pardon the pun) Michael K. Williams, who played legendary stick-up artist Omar Little on the show, as a particularly nasty drug dealer. Of course, the true coup de grace is Wesley Snipes' triumphant return as a recently released convict – a role that is far too hilariously ironic to ever be seen as coincidental (Google "Wesley Snipes" and "tax evasion" if the irony escapes you). 

All of this really ought to add up to a truly cracking crime thriller but the whole endeavor is let down by a horrible sense of over familiarity. The characters never show any more depth or intrigue than my very superficial synopses of them in this review's opening paragraph displayed. The stories themselves feel warmed-up and, as is often the case when trying to split a narrative between mostly separate strands, massively underdeveloped. Perhaps I've been spoiled by the brilliant crime stories that the comic book medium has been rolling out lately (most notably Ed Brubaker's Criminal and Jason Aaron's gloriously gritty masterwork Scalped) but, on a purely storytelling level, the overlong Brooklyn's Finest disappoints at every turn. That it all finishes with an ending that is by turns less realistic, more silly and much more fun than the rest of the movie doesn't help its case either.

In the end, Brooklyn's Finest is a visually and sonically striking missed opportunity that is, by parts, impressive, disappointing, boring and exciting. But mostly it's nothing more than a very minor addition to the vast canon of crime films.

The not-so-intertwining story of three cops trying to make their way in the mean streets of Brooklyn.

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E 2010-07-20 03:21 PM
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