Brooklyn's FInest [Blu-Ray]
Director : Antonine Fuqua
Screenplay : Michael C. Martin
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2009
Stars : Richard Gere (Eddie), Don Cheadle (Tango), Ethan Hawke (Sal), Wesley Snipes (Caz), Vincent D’Onofrio (Carlo), Brian F. O’Byrne (Ronny Rosario), Will Patton (Lt. Bill Hobarts), Lili Taylor (Angela), Ellen Barkin (Agent Smith), Jesse Williams (E. Quinlan), Shannon Kane (Chantel), Wass Stevens (Det. Patrick Leary), Armando Riesco (Det. George Montress), Wade Allain-Marcus (C-Rayz), Logan Marshall-Green (Melvin Panton)
Brooklyn’s Finest was advertised heavily as being “from the director of Training Day,” which is an appropriate bit of commercial opportunism given that it is an East Coast mirror to the previous film’s West Coast portrait of police corruption that differs primarily by multiplying it threefold. Instead of one troubled police officer whose moral compass has been shot up in the line of duty, we get three, each of whom comes from a different walk of life and occupies a different professional space, yet together represent the harrowing difficulties of the profession, especially in high-crime areas like Brooklyn’s notorious Van Dyke housing complex, where most of the film’s action is set. Many of Fuqua’s previous films, including Tears of the Sun (2003) and Shooter (2006), have been action juggernauts with confused political subtexts, and Brooklyn’s Finest is similar, albeit with a heavier coating of seriousness. The film is bursting at the seams with violence, mayhem, and various forms of vigilantism, but it all feels hollow and hopeless, which underscores the film’s strikingly brutal (one might say truly dour) message about the messy nature of the world we live in.
The three main characters are police officers in Brooklyn’s rough 65th Precinct, each of whom is in danger of losing his identity to the savagery of the urban jungle his is policing. Eddie (Richard Gere) is a beat cop who has 22 years of experience under his badge and seven days left before retirement. He is a true “burnout,” a man who has been scorched by his job and no longer makes an effort to hide the fact that he is just going through the motions. His only solace is alcohol and regular visits to a sympathetic prostitute (Shannon Kane), neither of which give him any sense of fulfillment. Tango (Don Cheadle) is a deep undercover agent who, after having spent the past two years pretending to be a violent drug dealer, has lost his sense of self and is afraid that, if he doesn’t get out soon, he may never be able to. He is told by his superior officer (Will Patton) and a hard-nosed police bureaucrat (Ellen Barkin) that the only way out is to get evidence on Caz (Wesley Snipes), a high-profile dealer recently released from prison on appeal. The only problem is that Caz once saved Tango’s life, and therefore he feels a sense of loyalty to him that he cannot betray. Finally, there is Sal (Ethan Hawke), a tortured Catholic who already has a houseful of kids and his wife (Lili Taylor) is pregnant again, this time with twins. Feeling the economic crunch of providing for his ever-increasing family on a cop’s lowly salary that keeps them stuck in a small brownstone with mold problems, Sal is increasingly tempted to steal from the piles of drug money he routinely sees lying about during the raids he leads. The film’s opening scene establishes that he is willing to kill in cold blood to get money for his family, so we know it is only a matter of time before he crosses that line again.
Written by first-time screenwriter Michael C. Martin (a native Brooklynite who has also worked as a staff writer on the Showtime series Sleeper Cell), Brooklyn’s Finest is an unapologetically grim and gritty slice of police life, a single-minded portrait of the crushing physical and psychological dangers faced by the men in blue. Gere, Cheadle, and Hawke are all given difficult duties in portraying strung-out characters hanging on to the edge of their sanity, and the film benefits from the way each deals differently with his increasingly desperate situation. Gere’s Eddie retreats deep into himself, making him all but unavailable to everyone around him, including several rookies with whom he is teamed; he has given up on any sense of real duty and it just going through the motions, trying to stay alive to collect his pension. Cheadle’s Tango, on the other hand, is constantly about to crack, and his scenes with Will Patton and Ellen Barkin have a frenzied urgency in which you sense the character’s desperation and despise the way the system exploits it. Hawke’s Sal is the film’s most complicated character as he is the most directly amoral despite clinging to his Catholic virtues and dedication to his family; it is summed up nicely when he violently rebukes a priest in the confessional booth, yelling that he doesn’t want God’s forgiveness, but rather his help, neither of which he is likely to get.
And that, in a nutshell, is the problem with Brooklyn’s Finest. For all its powerful moments (of which there are many), it feels too calculated and pre-programmed in its downward spiral. If Training Day was a train that picked up speed before going off the rails in its final third, Brooklyn’s Finest is a train that steadily moves toward a destination you can see coming and can’t avoid. That sense of fatalism is an intrinsic part of the film’s grim worldview, but from an audience perspective it risks deadening the experience, as we gradually realize that there is probably no hope for any of the characters. The film does supply redemption to some, but the escalating violence around them becomes a storm from which no one can escape, and the end leaves us with little with grab onto except the fleeting and demoralizing sense that sometimes dead is better.
|Brooklyn’s Finest Blu-Ray + Digital Download|
|Distributor||Anchor Bay Entertainment|
|Release Date||July 6, 2010|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|Brooklyn’s Finest looks extremely good in its 1080p/AVC-encoded high-def transfer. Director Antoine Fuqua and cinematographer Patrick Murguia favor a mix of stylized and natural lighting, which results in a dark, high-contrast look that often puts the characters in deep shadows. Black levels are strong and inky throughout with excellent shadow detail, and when the film does take place in broad daylight, it has a hot, intense feel to it. Detail level is excellent throughout, which accentuates the rough textures of the real-life locations. The Dolby Digital and uncompressed PCM 5.1-channel surround soundtracks are also quite good, with a great sense of presence and atmosphere and more than enough low end to give the film’s many, many gunshots real weight and impact.|
|In addition to a measured and informative audio commentary by director Antoine Fuqua, the Blu-Ray of Brooklyn’s Finest includes five brief featurettes about the film’s production, which total a little more than half an hour: “Chaos & Conflict: The Life of a New York Cop” focuses on the general background of the film’s genesis and production; “Boyz N the Real Hood” looks at Fuqua’s casting of Brooklyn locals and use of real locations; “An Eye for Detail” further explores the extent to which the production went to ensure a sense of realism; “From the MTA to the WGA” gives us the rather impressive story of how the film’s screenwriter wrote and sold the script while working for the New York transit authority; and “Three Cops and a Dealer” explores each of the three main characters. Also included are roughly half an hour of deleted, alternate, and expanded scenes (which unfortunately are not divided up into separate viewable chapters) and the original theatrical trailer.|
Copyright ©2010 James Kendrick
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