Brooklyn’s Finest is a film that has a great amount of potential, an all-star cast, and a director that we know can pull off a great movie. Unfortunately none of that matters when combined with terrible storytelling, absurd pacing, and about 30 minutes of shots that are utterly and incomprehensibly useless.
‘Cop Dramas’ are a popular genre in cinema, and have steadily been released over the years. Just like anything, some are better than others. When I think of a good movie about police and criminals, I think of American Gangster, The Departed, Heat – and plenty of other well made films. One that especially comes to mind in this case is Training Day, starring Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. That film was directed by Antoine Fuqua, just like Brooklyn’s Finest, and was a great film. But I am disappointed to say that I did not find the same love for this movie as I did for Fuqua’s last film.
Brooklyn’s Finest tells many different stories during the film. In it we have the cop that is retiring (Richard Gere), the undercover police officer (Don Cheadle), the dirty cop (Ethan Hawke) and the gang leader (Wesley Snipes). Throwing all of these characters together into a movie and trying to connect them together isn’t a failing formula. It’s called The Departed. But in this case, the way the story was told was just downright boring. It starts from the moment the opening credits role. After a completely uncreative text-only title, we open the film with a camera panning to a car in the distance for what feels like an eternity. My first impression was that it was a neat shot to lead up to the characters who you hear having a conversation. And it was intriguing for the first minute. But it really got old once I realized that the camera wasn’t going to change angles any time soon. This is the first of many problems in the film with the pacing. There will be long, drawn out shots of everything from New York City, right down to even characters themselves. In one scene we watch Richard Gere’s car pull up to a house – only to pan closer and closer to the actor’s face for about 30 seconds before he does anything. Before that scene, we watch Gere and a fellow police officer walk to their squad car, walk to opposite car doors, get in the car, close the doors, and then finally change scenes. There is just so much unnecessary footage left in the final product, that it really makes you wonder how much editing they did.
The performances in the film were not terrible by any means. Brooklyn’s Finest is a movie filled with talented actors, and they do carry themselves fairly well in the roles. But there is only so much they can do with the script and direction that they are given. Richard Gere plays Eddie, a retiring New York cop with only a week left on the force. Gere’s character is described best as uninteresting, and is kind of an enigma. We don’t know too incredibly much about him, or why he acts way that he does. He is divorced, and has a drinking problem that leads him to wake up in the morning and poor himself a stiff drink. The other cops on the force seem to have a problem with him, but the movie never explains why. This is a reoccurring them with Eddie, and it is frustrating to the audience that we don’t know why people treat him that way. Ethan Hawke plays Sal, a “dirty cop” of sorts that has good intentions but makes terrible decisions. Sal’s character is probably one of the most interesting to watch in the movie, as he always keeps you guessing as to what he will do next. He wants nothing more than to give his family the life they deserve, but lacks the funds to do so. This leads to him doing things in his line of work that are not only immoral – but downright illegal. Hawke gives a good performance, and fits right into the role.
Don Cheadle plays the role of Tango. Think of Leonardo DiCaprio in The Departed. Tango was assigned to go deep undercover years ago, and even went so far as to serve a stint in prison to play the part. It is there that he meets Caz, played by Wesley Snipes. Snipes is the leader of a giant drug operation, and is one of the reasons that Tango is undercover on the drug scene. But there is a twist – Caz is also the reason that Tango is alive. While they were in prison, Tango is almost killed by another inmate – but Caz saved his life. This gives the two a real bond, and makes it hard for Tango to do anything to compromise the life of the man who kept him alive. Don Cheadle is an incredibly talented actor, and I enjoyed seeing him in a different role for once. I think the fact that Cheadle is always so straight-laced in his movies makes him a little less believable in the role, but it is no insult to his acting by any means. I was surprised at how refreshing it was to see Wesley Snipes in a mainstream movie again. In the 90s Snipes appeared in a ton of great action movies, and more recently Blade. This film proves that he still has the acting chops to pull of a big role, and I hope that this marks the return of Snipes to the cinema.
In the end, Brooklyn’s Finest ends up feeling much too long and leaves you feeling empty. The plot of the film is interesting, but Fuqua tries too hard to tie all of the stories together. And with all of the unnecessary camera angles that just end of feeling pretentious, the movie is about a half-hour too long. The talent of the incredible cast was really underutilized, and more time should have been used to teach us about the characters. Instead we are left with too many questions, and a movie that has far less impact than it should have.
“Brooklyn’s Finest” is a D