Who’s In It: Ethan Hawke, Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Wesley Snipes, Lili Taylor, Will Patton, Ellen Barkin, Michael K. Williams, Vincent D’Onofrio, Shannon Kane, Logan Marshall-Green, Brian F. O’Byrne
The Basics: Three New York City police officers cross paths over the course of one week in Brooklyn, where tensions are on the rise due to increased violence between locals and the police. Sal (Ethan Hawke) is a desperate detective who’s tempted to break the law in order to care for his large family; Clarence (Don Cheadle) is deep undercover and slowly losing his bearings thanks to his friendship with a drug dealer (Wesley Snipes); and Eddie (Richard Gere) is a jaded veteran officer trying to ride out his last days before retirement. Each cop’s fate is sealed one night as their storylines bring them to a reckoning in the middle of Brooklyn’s toughest neighborhood.
What’s The Deal: Though its multi-strand structure feels a tad clichéd, Brooklyn’s Finest boasts fine performances from each of its leads, all of whom get to play out meaty storylines about loyalty, duty and temptation, and how even good cops can get it all confused when the pressures of life come into play. (Coincidentally, the Kevin Smith comedy Cop Out also portrayed Brooklyn police officers as an underpaid and underappreciated lot, though Antoine Fuqua’s tension-filled drama does more justice to the complex plight of those who risk life and limb to protect and serve.) Fuqua’s careful direction keeps the tension simmering as he follows his three unrelated protagonists along their paths, painting a dismal portrait of police life – violent, depressing, and deadly – that suggests it’s not only human nature, but the system itself, that tempts, corrupts, and ruins its own officers. Despite the script’s too-neat constructions, this pulpy potboiler is a solid think piece and companion film to Fuqua’s 2001 Oscar-winner Training Day.
Expect Lots Of: Tension, gunshots, blood, conversations about ethics, extras playing drug dealers in the projects, Catholic guilt, Wesley Snipes in fine Italian suits, nude ladies, masculine aggression, symbolism, dead cops, dead civilians, pulsating musical cues, police shenanigans, cute rookie cops, and “Don’t go in there!” scenes.
Standout Supporting Performances: Wesley Snipes as Cheadle’s unsuspecting target and Michael K. Williams (Omar from The Wire) as the drug lord’s suspicious second-in-command. Shannon Kane as a hooker with a heart of gold who also has conflicted feelings about her job. Ellen Barkin as a calculating bureaucratic federal agent unafraid to rip Don Cheadle a new one. Logan Marshall-Green (Trey from The O.C.) and Brian F. O’Byrne (FlashForward) as moralizing fellow cops.
The Anecdote That Becomes A Metaphor, If You’re Watching Closely (And Care): Screenwriter Michael C. Martin opens Brooklyn’s Finest with a tale about rights and wrongs that guides the entire film toward its bloody conclusion, while Fuqua inserts subtle (and not-so-subtle) visual and audio clues throughout, including one of the only freeze frames I’ve seen in about a decade’s worth of movies. All of which is probably snoozeville for many moviegoers, but if you’re a film nerd, it’ll be like finding the prizes at the bottom of the cereal box.