More police officers commit suicide than die in the line of duty. This isn’t something the audience is told at the beginning — or ever — during Brooklyn’s Finest, but it is something director Antoine Fuqua would like us to know. The “us” isn’t just you and me, though, and it isn’t just the film-going audience; it’s anyone who’ll listen.
Brooklyn’s Finest has a message, and a strong one. It’s also got a brilliant director, amazing acting and a top-notch screenplay from first-time screenwriter Michael C. Martin that was touched up by actor Brad Caleb Kane (the singing voice of Aladdin. Wait, what?). It’s got the tools, it’s got the talent, and it’s the best crime drama since The Departed.
The film opens on a cemetery, with Vincent D’Onofrio (in a small role he knocks out of the park) telling a story to Ethan Hawke about more-right vs. more-wrong — as in, can a man break the law to save his own life? Can we steal, kill, drive drunk, if it’s in an effort to do right by our most primitive instinct of self-preservation?
Hawke plays a New York City cop working on raising enough money to put a down payment on a house to accommodate his rapidly-expanding family. He’s luminous in this role — a total chameleon. Hawke and Fuqua worked together on Training Day all those years ago, and it’s clear they know how to play off of one another here. Fuqua steps back and lets Hawke do his thing, using long shots and low-key music to let the character’s desperation flow out.
Richard Gere, playing a washed-up, fed-up cop just one week away from retirement, gets mostly the same treatment — and all the best scenes. He’s grizzled and troubled, and the first time we see him is during his morning routine: wake up on a sheetless bed, take a shot of whiskey and put a gun in his mouth. It’s been a while since Gere’s been anything but a handsome, charming bastard, and he seems to be using that to his advantage. We get the sense that maybe his character was once a well-respected fellow, before he had to head to the projects and see the same whore night after night just to get looked at like an authority figure. He’s great, and look for some Oscar buzz his way about a year from now.
Then there’s Don Cheadle, the undercover cop who is lost between helping his colleagues on the force and the dealer who saved his life in prison (Wesley Snipes). Should I really have to tell you he’s great? And would you even believe me if I said Snipes did anything shy of a terrific job?
There’s just too much here to talk about, too many good things about Brooklyn’s Finest, and I don’t have the space to go over it all. The plot is intricate and well-woven, and Fuqua makes the hell out of his point. It’s well-made, well-shot, the scoring is terrific, and it gives a sense of dread and urgency to everything. Go see it.
Reach reporter Morgan Gard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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