From a startling beginning, Brooklyn’s Finest burns slowly, as though ambling towards a bonfire; insinuating with every swooping instrumental and ominous gaze at the city lit by its own dark heart.
Three cops with divergent lives are united by their feeling that the institution to which they have been so loyal for so long, has ultimately failed them. Eddie (Richard Gere), who has been on the force for two decades and is on the brink of retirement, begins the film in an unfurnished apartment with a gun in his mouth, from which the audience must deduce that he is a) suicidal and b) into minimalism. In place of a face which, if the script is to be believed, should have been lain to waste by the ravages of a life on the mean streets, is one which instead looks gently creased.
Meanwhile, Gere alternates between sad bemusement and hangdog, his dazed expression extended to hookers, kidnap victims and colleagues alike. Sympathy for Eddie is engendered by emphasising his alienation from the rest of the force and pairing him with another ostracised figure – a hooker named Chantel (Shannon Kane) who he believes he can extricate from an institutionalised life as cleanly as he believes he can extricate himself.
Sal (Ethan Hawke), who wears his Catholicism like an albatross that apparently sums up his entire character, has a gaggle of children and a pregnant wife (a woefully underused Lili Taylor) whose health is under threat thanks to the unsanitary conditions of their house.
The usually skittish Hawke excels in a role that requires more aggression and grit from him than one might expect, but you have to wonder why Sal doesn’t come up with an alternative to the extremes he is apparently driven to. The triumvirate is rounded out by Don Cheadle as Tango, an undercover cop who has been under said cover for so long he is becoming who he has pretended to be.
From a startling beginning, Brooklyn’s Finest burns slowly, as though ambling towards a bonfire; insinuating with every swooping instrumental and ominous gaze at the city lit by its own dark heart, that there is an explosion at the end of its long line of lit narrative matches. Instead it merely strains to tell you how imperative it is, without showing you that its prevarications have any depth or aim.
Throughout its duration we learn the following: the police force is riddled with institutionalised and casual racism; everyone is underpaid and underappreciated; cops can be bad guys and drug dealers have feelings too; years of witnessing horror on the street can make you amoral.
For anyone who has seen even one episode of The Wire (and the two bear comparison which cannot be ignored, mostly due to the proliferation of Wire graduates in roles they have played to greater effect already), such themes are old hat, and in this case written without sufficient finesse.
Training Day director Antoine Fuqua reunites with Ethan Hawke in a blistering examination of New York’s most dangerous precinct
Engrossing but uninspired.
Strong direction and acting can’t compensate for an insubstantial script.