Drama / Action
Distributed by: Overture Films
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I saw the promos for Brooklyn’s Finest, I was amazed at the cast - Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke and Wesley Snipes - all fine dramatic actors, but I still wasn’t sure I wanted to see this film. The last Antoine Fuqua movie I had seen was Training Day and I was immediately turned off by the bad light it portrayed police officers in. It wasn’t until much later that I was able to appreciate the drama of the film. So, I passed Brooklyn’s Finest up when it was playing in theaters, but that’s the benefit of renting movies with friends: sometimes they pick out a film you wouldn’t ordinarily see.
The film takes place in Brownsville, Brooklyn and focuses on three police officers. Don Cheadle is Clarence “Tango” Butler, an undercover cop, currently working as a top player in a drug ring. All Clarence has wanted was the promotion to detective promised him when he placed himself so deep in a drug ring run by recently released federal criminal Caz (Wesey Snipes). Unfortunately, that detective’s job never materializes and Clarence’s home life is in a shambles. All he wants now is to get out of this undercover job before he actually becomes the person he’s pretending to be.
Ethan Hawke is Salvatore “Sal” Procida, a loving father and NYPD detective trying to provide a better life for his family. The house he currently lives in is too small for his growing family and the toxic mold growing in it is making his wife sick. He needs a new house, but as the funds run dry, the line between good and evil begins to blur for Salvatore.
Richard Gere is Officer Eddie Dugan, a beat cop with a less than stellar career and even less of a home life, who is only a couple of weeks away from retirement. Despite his lack of enthusiasm for the job, the powers that be decide it might be a good idea to assign up and coming rookies to Dugan for some training.
The theme of Brooklyn’s Finest comes out in the very first scene - sometimes the bad things you do are okay if they are done to prevent worse things from happening. The theme is repeated time and time again. Each officer goes through the experience, discovering that life isn’t always black and white and that the grey areas actually define what we are. The line between good and evil can often be blurred when we believe we are doing the best thing for people we care about.
The film is extremely dramatic and, of course, extremely bloody, as only Antoine Fuqua can make it. This is Fuqua’s signature and despite the fact that some of the bloody action can take away from the drama of the scene, somehow he manages to get his point across every time.
The actors deserve a great deal of credit in making their roles extremely believable. Don Cheadle deserves the highest praise. I knew he was a terrific actor, having seen his talent performing in previous dramatic roles, but his role as Tango is a great departure from those previous roles and he pulls it off perfectly.
The DVD version of Brooklyn’s Finest contains three alternate endings and I truly recommend checking out all three. Each one sets a different tone for the movie, especially the ending featuring Richard Gere fishing. That particular scene was the most dramatic for me and may have been the best ending for the film, but would have caused the most controversy.
Amazingly, despite my aversion to Fuqua’s films, I found Brooklyn’s Finest to be a very interesting and though provoking film. Of course, I couldn’t recommend this movie without warning folks that there are quite a few mature elements and an awful lot of bloody moments incidental to the storytelling. And yet, I would hope that sort of thing wouldn’t dissuade you from discovering the true meaning behind the film and contemplating its ramifications. Brooklyn’s Finest is a thinking man’s film disguised as a dramatic action flick.