Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes, Will Patton, Lili Taylor, Brian F. O'Byrne, Shannon Kane, Ellen Barkin, Vincent DíOnofrio
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Release Date: August 10, 2010, 7:04 am
Rating: R for (bloody violence throughout, strong sexuality, nudity, drug content, and pervasive language)
Run Time: 02h:12m:32s
ìHe says that this is not a simple case of right and wrong, but righter and wronger because the defendant had to break the law to protect his own life.î - Carlo (Vincent DíOnofrio)
Movie Grade: C
DVD Grade: A-
What happens when a great cast comes together, with the backing of a decent-sized studio, and an accomplished director at the helm? Usually nothing but good things, but in the case of 2010ís Brooklynís Finest, we get a mixed bag, at best. The director here is Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), and while calling him an ìaccomplished directorî could be a bit of a stretch, heís at least a known commodity. The cast includes a trio of heavyweights, namely Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, and Ethan Hawke, but itís not always a good cast, on paper, that carries a film. They certainly didnít help this film at the box office, as it scraped and clawed to barely make back itís relatively meager $25 million budget. Anchor Bay has done all that it can to give Brooklynís Finest a second chance at glory, however, as this new DVD release is an impressive one.
A trio of New York City police officers finds their long careers on the verge of taking drastically different, yet equally risky paths. Tango (Don Cheadle) is deep undercover as second-in-command to a drug kingpin named Caz (Wesley Snipes), Eddie (Richard Gere) is on the verge of retirement, and suicide, and Sal (Ethan Hawke) is a struggling family man whose pregnant wife, Angela (Lili Taylor) suffers mold poisoning due to the shoddy conditions of their house. All three of them face major decisions in their respective situations, with Tango attempting to balance his morals and maintaining his cover, Eddie just trying to make it through his last few days on the force, and Sal making the toughest call of all, between his freedom and the well-being of his family.
It was difficult to watch Brooklynís Finest and not at least briefly think about the greatness that is The Wire. Of course, it helps that Iím (FINALLY) watching that excellent series for the first time now, so itís fresh in my head, but longtime fans of that show are sure to at least reminisce a little when watching the cops in Fuquaís film. Unfortunately, this canít even think about holding a candle to The Wire in any way, shape, or form, and the bulk of the blame can be placed on the shoulders of screenwriter Michael C. Martin. Granted this is the first feature film heís penned, but such a fact doesnít make it easy to look past the numerous, clichÈs that haunt his script. This film might work for those of us whoíve never seen any kind of police procedural on screen before, but, given that most of us have, I believe itís safe to say weíve had enough of troubled, suicidal, morally conflicted, and even criminal policemen. However, if you simply canít get enough of any of those clichÈs, then forget about the originality and masterpiece of storytelling that is The Wire, and check out Brooklynís Finest instead.
Even these usually-reliable actors are seemingly sleep-walking through their performances. Cheadle does the best job in whatís arguably the most clichÈd role of the bunch, as he has to make his undercover cop character believable to us, but he has to do so opposite Wesley Snipes, in a role that canít avoid calling to mind his work as Nino Brown in New Jack City. Richard Gere plods along carelessly throughout, but, such a low-key, uninterested performance actually suits his downtrodden character perfectly. Weíve seen this brand of Ethan Hawke character many times before, and enough is enough. Despite Salís numerous troubles, Hawke pushes so many of the wrong buttons that itís impossible to feel any sympathy for him, leaving us disinterested when we witness the results of his climactic actions. Still, while the film itself doesnít, Anchor Bayís DVD excels technically, providing stellar audio and video presentations, along with a healthy collection of extras that are more compelling than the film itself.
Chuck Aliaga August 10, 2010, 7:04 am