Brooklyn’s Finest

Antoine Fuqua (Training DayShooter) delivers another tour de force gritty, urban crime drama centered around an ensemble cast of the finest character actors working today, including Wesley SnipesEthan HawkeDon Cheadle and Richard Gere.  Don’t be confused by the moniker ‘Character actor’ here, these guys give standout performances and each have carried more than one film and created some of the most memorably characters in cinema history.  Who can forget Wesley Snipes in Jungle Fever or the Blade franchise?  Ethan Hawke in Dead Poet’s Society, Reality Bites, and Hamlet?  Richard Gere needs no introductions and by all measure delivers some of his best work here. Don Cheadle is steadily amassing a varied and award-winning career with impassioned, often volatile characters from the recent Hotel Rwanda all the way back to his small, but memorable part in the late Dennis Hopper’s 1988 film Colors.

It’s refreshing to find so many veteran actors sharing the screen together, building on the ensemble theme that immediately reminds one of films like Heat and of course Fuqua’s previous film Training Day.  From the very first scene we’re drawn into the world of the story where two men, who might be anyone, carry on a conversation inside a barely lit car in some nameless alley in what might be any city across America.  The dialog is forthright and interesting, part run-on sentences like old stories sometimes do and the rest is a mishmash of colloquialisms and getting to know you chit-chat.  The scene is reminiscent of the opening from Craig Brewer’s Hustle & Flow where Djay (Terence Howard) is explaining the importance of what his prostitute Nola does in the grand scheme of their business arrangement.  Fuqua doesn’t inundate us with choppy camera work or flashbacks, there are no imminent threats only this dialog that serves as a preamble for the rest of the movie as much as a warning: This is a dangerous place and among Brooklyn’s Finest are some tangled, often dangerous who are equally examples of Brooklyn’s Worst.

Where others in this genre often fail is to define a realistic perspective about divergent interests that cross the line between cops and robbers similarly caught up in the day-to-day life of inner city brutality.  For fans of Training Day, Brooklyn’s Finest make and keeps its promises with a well written script by freshman scribe and one-time subway flagman, Michael C. Martin.  The dialog is sharp to the ear and meaningful, a mixture of racial tension and class struggles where these characters might just as well be your friends and neighbors.  At one point Ethan Hawke’s character, sitting around a table in his basement with his cop buddies playing poker, erupts when just a glimpse of the world he works in comes in contact with his child.  For the most part these are decent enough people who just happen to live in a void-like world where up is sometimes down and the line between good guys and bad guys isn’t as easily discernible as the color of their hat, much less their skin or whether they put a badge and gun on in the morning or just a gun.

Where Brooklyn’s Finest surpasses other crime dramas and police procedurals is that it takes the time to develop character through interesting, often interconnected dialog that is and isn’t about life on the streets.  An aging, burned out cop (Richard Gere) is in stark contrast to his younger, perhaps more ambitious but no less conflicted counterpart played competently by Ethan Hawke – though in all honesty I haven’t seen a range in character or varied performance by Hawke in quite some time.  His character here is not all that different from the cop he played in director Fuqua’s Training Day with Denzel Washington but this in and of itself isn’t a real problem, only one worth mentioning.  I was quite happy to see Wesley Snipes here, though his character was strained and sketchy at best without enough real screen time to develop properly and with lasting significance.  Don Cheadle reprises his all too familiar role as an undercover cop drawn between opposing worlds of right and wrong, caught in the middle and ultimately a plot point character that like Snipes, isn’t given enough time to fully mature on-screen.

Brooklyn’s Finest is the kind of movie that plays more like the pilot episode of an upcoming series for HBO or Showtime, a brief encounter with characters and scenarios that are all at once inviting, although familiar, but before we can commit to the story and characters people die as they often do in films like this and we’re left with a message about living and dying and moving on in a world where the everyday possibility of seeing tomorrow is not always as easy as crossing the street to get to the other side.

This article was originally posted in October 2010 and revised to date.

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About rorydean

Rory Dean is a multi-medium artist, writer and new media strategist with a background as a creative consultant and technology liaison in the San Francisco Bay Area. His broad experiences and specialties include print-to-web publicity, promotions and design marketing using traditional and social media networks. As a motion pictures and television professional, his short films, productions and commercials have screened to domestic and international audiences. His connections to a diverse client base include artists, entertainers, corporations, non-profits and everyday people.. Dean is co-owner and founder of Dissave Pictures, a boutique production company focusing on audio, video, photography and multi-media designs. Dean's personal and professional background includes dreaming and avid notebook journaling, creative and copy writing, promotions and marketing, audio/video production, photography, videography, editing, web design and new media. He’s also a fan of collaboration and knows when to turn the reigns over, offer feedback, lead the team and step aside. His portfolio includes print, online, film, video, photography, graphic design and promotions. He’ll show you. He has a book and everything. "When not juggling various online worlds, I do a pretty good mime – but that’s another story."
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6 Responses to Brooklyn’s Finest

  1. Rory,

    I like the layout of your blog and the movie reviews. The easy to see recommendations with the ticket stub is great for someone scanning to see what is worth seeing before digging into a particular review. I also liked the behind the scenes information shared about the passion projects.

    Thanks,
    Chris

    • rorydean says:

      Hi Chris,

      Much thanks. I’ve just started the ‘Movies you should or shouldn’t see’ recommendations and wasn’t sure how it was going to be received. It is interesting when you begin to explore the craft and business of the filmmaking industry. It’s surprising how long it takes to make some films whereas others with seemingly broad box office appeal pop up one after the other like someone is passing out money on Ventura Blvd., to anyone with a random idea for a film. As a filmmaker myself who has been on the production side of passion projects, I know first hand how one feels from the gut that some projects just have to be made – even against the advice of others and what amounts to limited box office receipts.

      thanks again,
      cheers->

  2. fibro2010 says:

    I really can’t wait to see this movie with my husband. Now I just have to find the time. Great blog. I love to see what other people are thinking about movies before I waste my time and money.

    • rorydean says:

      Hello,

      Thanks for the note. As I mentioned in my review, Brooklyn’s Finest is a very well done movie. Antoine Fugua (the director) also did Training Day and Sniper, the latter with Mark Walberg. He is known for his bravado and attention to realism, often bringing professional consultants into his projects to ensure the action sequences are believable and accurate. As I mentioned, the casting is perfect, a great ensemble that play off one another as though they’ve shared the screen before – though most have not.

      You won’t be disappointed.
      cheers->

  3. Rodney says:

    Just a comment on this one; I’m not sure if it’s your font or my eyesight, but it looks like you’ve used a G in Fuqua’s name, making it read like Fugua. Might want to check that!
    Cheers!

    • rorydean says:

      Rodney, thanks for catching that one! I went back to fix it and then got inspired to add a bit more to my review for a very worthy film. Sure, it’s not going to be everyones cup of tea, being an urban crime thriller, but the performances are wonderful with clear direction and some of the best dialog I’ve heard in recent time. Reminded me very much of Hustle & Flow, as I mention.

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