Starring: Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Ethanm Hawke, Wesley Snipes, Will Patton, Lili Taylor

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Writer: Michael C. Martin

Cinematography: Patrick Murguia

Original Score: Marcelo Zarvos

Running Time: 132 Mins.

Director Antoine Fuqua hit the big time with seminal thriller that dealt with the darker side of the police force in Training Day, bagging a deserved Oscar for Denzel Washington in the process, so it comes as no surprise that he returns to that turf once more with his latest film Brooklyn’s Finest which is similarly plotted, as it deals with corrupt cops, but cranks everything up a few notches by following the path of not one, not two, but three men walking the fine line between what an opening speech touts as the idea of “righter or wronger”.

So we have Richard Gere’s last 7 days as a nondescript and weary beat cop who has done nothing of note during his 20 years on the force and, through the eyes of a rookie, seeks to change that, Don Cheadles undercover narc who is in so deep he wants out and finally, acting as the central focus point, is Ethan Hawke’s corrupt officer at the end of his tether, wrestling with how far he will go to provide for his ever-growing family. If each strand on its own sounds familiar it is because it is, The Departed, Pride and Glory, Dark Blue, to name but a few have tread these boards to great outcome in their own rights, but in truth they largely have Training Day to than for reinvigorating the genre, all of which means that Fuqua should be able to top all these in one fell swoop…

Sadly he doesn’t, juggling this many strands and creating fully rounded characters is difficult and what is even more difficult is bringing them together upon the film’s close without seeming hackneyed or forced, on that front he largely fails with an ending that echoes The Departed a little too much not to seem stale. But the taken as an attempt at something with a little more meat on its bones than your average thriller the film proves a success to the final 20 minutes. Each story alone would likely have felt massively clichéd, but somehow when brought together they work, not so much three stories weaving in and out they are separately plotted with the characters only ever crossing in a street or in the police rec-room, though this lends the film a little more credence while seeming a touch disjointed.

Inevitably some arcs become more interesting than others, be it through character or the story itself, here it is the characters who grip over the admittedly seen-it-all-before plotting, Hawke, Gere and Cheadle are all great actors and are worth their mettle here, Gere in particular seems to be stretching himself playing a man out of his usual comfort zone, in one squinty sigh alone Gere can act most people off the screen and it is this kind of presence that keeps the film alive. Hawke is as intense as ever, switching his good guy rookie role in Training Day for something much darker seems much better suited to his now cracked and worn looks, this is a man aged by stress and in a standout scene, set in a confession booth you literally can’t tear your eyes off the screen.

Of the three strands it is Cheadle’s that suffers most, maybe it is because The Departed did the undercover thing so well or maybe it is because this kind of black gang drug warfare has well and truly descended into parody given how often it crops up in films now but the characters never seem to gel with the events, that said it is a story that affords Wesley Snipes a great role despite giving him little to do beyond have furrowed conversations with Cheadle, thankfully he does it so well it really begins to matter very little what they are saying and rather that they are just saying it!

Oddly, when balanced against Training Day, this is not an action packed film in terms of shoot-outs and heated confrontations, rather it is a slow burn character piece that juggles maybe one too many characters than it can feasibly handle, that it handles as many as it does as well as it does is a great thing for it means Fuqua has tried to raise his game rather than simply treading the same boards as would have been all too easy to do.

VERDICT

A character piece first and foremost with excellent turns all round, and in that Brooklyn’s Finest succeeds, even if the inevitable happens and some of the stories suffer for being less memorable than others resulting in a somewhat rushed and unsatisfactory ending.

Advertisements