I was working for a film distribution company when this modestly budgeted cop drama emerged on to The Scene. Seeing first hand the shockingly lackluster advertising campaign and the woefully limited distribution was something of a curious shock, especially considering the talent involved. Right off the bat, Brooklyn’s Finest is directed by a rather high-profile American director named Antoine Fuqua. The man has an entertaining filmography, with titles like The Replacement Killers (1998), Bait (2000), Training Day (2001), Tears of the Sun (2003) and King Arthur (2004) standing out, for a variety of reasons. Even his not-so-shining fare, such as Shooter (2007), was competently shot and edited. The man has certainly joined the ranks of aesthetically-reliant (and quite successful) directors such as Michael Bay, Simon West and Dominic Sena who, in my opinion, have all been derived from the influence of the late, great Tony Scott (RIP).
So, with all that in mind, I’m sure you can imagine my dismay when this excellent cop drama scooted in under the radar and barely got it’s $25 000 000 budget back. That sentiment doubles when I stop and consider the highly impressive and accomplished cast on hand. You’ve got Ethan Hawke, Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Wesley Snipes, Ellen Barkin, Will Patton, Lilli Taylor, and Michael Kenneth Williams (among others) giving it their all in this story of 3 unconnected cops and the ‘lead up’ to a tragic and violent crossing of paths, at a bloody crime scene.
Hawke reteams with his Training Day director to portray a different kind of cop this time around. While there is no question that ALL the cop characters come in varying shades of grey, Hawkes’ ‘Sal’ character is an interesting one. He definitely leans closer to the Black side of the Grey Scale, but with a ‘human’ twist He’s a crooked cop, greedily and desperately skimming off of captured cash troves from raided drug dens, for the sole purpose of trying to provide a new, mold-free house for his pregnant wife and 4 kids. A doting father driven to brutal crimes (he’s NOT above murder) to provide for his family. That’s a ‘type’ you (or at least, I) don’t see too often. Gere takes on one of the most stereotypical archetypes of the Cop genre: ‘The Soon To Retire Veteran Cop’. Only here, he manages to breath some fresh life and weary gravity into the drunken, whoring character. Don Cheadle plays the other standard ‘type’: ‘The Undercover Cop in Too Deep’, and he knocks it out of the park with his ‘street’ poise and mastery of flowing ebonics. He embodies both sides of his character with utter conviction and carries a real sense of ‘cool’, with desperation and frustration bubbling just below the surface. His scenes with Snipes (playing yet another high-profile urban criminal ala New Jack Citys Nino Brown) are great, carried along with a naturalistic ‘sweep’ to their interactions.
Stylistically, this film is very impressive, due to the fact that Fuqua has opted to take a more subdued approach to his shooting and editing style. Many scenes are terrific ‘long shots’, where the acting and environment speak for themselves…as opposed to the majority of quick-cuts and flashy shots that punctuate many of Fuquas past films. There is no hiding behind showy edits here. Just some damn fine, naturalistic performances. If I was pressed to, I would certainly lump Brooklyn’s Finest in with urban cop/crime ‘classics’ like New Jack City (1991), King of New York (1990), Training Day (2001) and The Departed (2006). It’s a realistically gritty, bloody and visceral drama that sucked me in from the get-go. If this type of flick is your ‘bag’, than I would not hesitate to recommend it. Up until this point, Training Day had been my favorite Antoine Fuqua film…I now think that I MAY have traded up. Plain and simple, this film a quality piece of cinema and deserves to be seen. So see it!