Review: ‘Brooklyn’s Finest’ is Bloated, But Brutal


Editor’s Note: This review was written at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Seeing as this movie is finally coming out on March 5, 2010, we’ve decided to repost it. The version I saw at Sundance may have been a slightly different cut, but my opinion below still stands. Please go about your business…

Having just this morning seen the premiere of Antoine Fuqua’s latest film Brooklyn’s Finest, I can say with certainty that there are two things that this director knows how to do that will always have me coming back for more. He is quite obviously not afraid to rip his characters open with brutal shooting scenes and he’s also not shy with casting attractive ladies and putting them in situations that require very little, if any clothing. We’ve seen him do it before with films such as Tears of the Sun and most recently with Shooter. We also know that he can put together a solid cast and deliver the drama, as he proved with Training Day. Brooklyn’s Finest combines all of these things to deliver one of Fuqua’s best films, one that delivers its share of violence and sex, all set in the gritty neighborhoods of Brooklyn.

The story revolves around three main characters. Richard Gere plays Eddie, a lonely, disenchanted New York police officer who is just trying to find reasons not to blow his own brains out as he serves out the last 7 days of duty before his pension kicks in and he retires. Don Cheadle plays Tango, an undercover cop who has been in the game a little too long, causing him to grow a little too fond of his target, a big time drug mover named Caz (Wesley Snipes). Ethan Hawke plays Sal, a narcotics cop whose struggle to provide for his ever-growing family have led him to jump back and forth from one side of the law to another.

Told through the eyes of these three men and their constantly entwined arcs, Brooklyn’s Finest is a tough film with quite a few intense moments. As he has done so well in the past, Fuqua uses characters who’ve been placed in rough circumstances to blur the lines between right and wrong, righteous and the immoral. None of these characters are necessarily good people, but we find reasons to connect with them either way. Why? Because they are well rounded characters brought to life by a cast of fantastic actors. Don Cheadle, as always, transforms into the role of Tango, bringing the audience into the vulnerable and troubled world of an undercover cop left out to dry by his superiors. Richard Gere delivers a great performance as well, his best dramatic role since The Jackal or Primal Fear. Hawke is the film’s real star though, as his character’s story is the most interesting, and as he did with Fuqua in Training Day, he makes the most of the opportunity to shine. Also notable is Wesley Snipes, who has found himself a great role after spending so long without some fitting work. Last but not least, there are some more than sexy moments between Richard Gere and newcomer Shannon Kane, who spends all of her screentime in the nude — and it is glorious.

The only issue that I found with the film is that its second act does overstay its welcome, leaving the audience to impatiently squirm in their seats a bit as they await the big finale. When said finale does finally arrive, it is absolutely brutal and completely worth the wait. The three compelling storylines, all wrought with unique sets of problems, come crashing together and the films intense final moments. It is here that Fuqua’s ability to film the brutality of a gun fight shines through, leaving the audience rattled as the storylines unfold. It’s not so much a surprise as it is the sheer intensity of the sequence that will get you, like a swift kick in the ass that you knew was coming. For fans of Fuqua’s previous work, this is exactly what we would expect the director to deliver. And deliver, he does.

Grade: B-

Neil Miller is the Founder and Publisher of Film School Rejects. For almost a decade, he has been talking movies on television, the radio, and the Internet. As of yet, no one has stopped him.

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