2 ½ Waffles (Out of 4) - In the 1970's, 80's and 90's, New York City and Brooklyn were portrayed in movies as dens of iniquity where evil (and rats) lurked in the shadows of every alley. That's why we believed each case on Cagney and Lacey, NYPD Blue and Law & Order could really happen (and often was ripped from the headlines).
However, today's New York is the cute, cuddly New York of How I Met Your Mother and Gossip Girl (no one threatens to pop a cap in Leighton Meester). It makes the Brooklyn in Brooklyn's Finest look like an homage to a 70's Scorsese film.
Brooklyn's Finest is the tale of three officers of the law.
Richard Gere stars as Eddie - a long time NYPD officer in a Brooklyn precinct who has done everything possible to keep his head down and avoid trouble at all costs.
Ethan Hawke is Sal - a vice squad officer also in a Brooklyn precinct, who is desperate to buy his family a new home, and willing to do something illegal and unthinkable to get his hands on some cash very quickly.
Finally, Don Cheadle is an undercover detective on the verge of getting out, getting his life back, and getting the ultimate reward, when he's asked to gather evidence to get a former pal, Caz (Wesley Snipes), arrested (check out my interview with Wesley Snipes and director Antoine Fuqua here).
What choices will each man make as he tries to determine what is right, what is wrong and what he needs to do?
Director Antoine Fuqua vividly reminds us Brooklyn still can be a mean, dirty, gritty place if you want to find the underbelly of society, and frightens you with its stark, harsh, shocking reality. Often times intense, Fuqua and writer Michael Martin try to avoid Brooklyn's Finest falling into clichéd storylines and plot twists, but don't always succeed, even though we do get some fun surprises.
Luckily, they don't try to get too cute and have some massive revelation that all three cops are working on the same case, so don't look for that and you will enjoy the movie more. These are three distinct stories, even if Fuqua has a little fun teasing the audience with how all three might interact.
Brooklyn's Finest excels when focused on its amazing cast. I know many people like to mock Gere, but I like him. He does a good job capturing the inner conflict and shame Eddie feels as he holds back from being a hero, as well as giving some sadness to Eddie as his career comes to an uneventful, lacking in fanfare end, while others look at him with some contempt for never accomplishing anything.
Then, you get the always awesome Cheadle with his strong take on a guy who has given everything for the job, and might never get it back. He's bitter, angry and distrustful of each and every person along the way who tries to control him for their own benefit.
Finally, Hawke brings some much needed conflict and energy to the most obvious and predictable role of the good man forced to do bad things to help his family. Martin, Fuqua and Hawke all make it much better than it should be by clearly showing the opposing viewpoint so provocatively in the most intense poker game you will ever see on screen, which balances the more knee jerk bleeding heart side of the story if some in the audience think Sal is a modern day Jean Valjean (there's a story begging to be remade with today's economic turmoil as the setting).
Brooklyn's Finest is a bit too long, and doesn't always break free from the obvious, but it's still a movie worth seeing. Sadly, I missed the first 5 - 10 minutes of the movie (those of you who battled DC traffic after the snow storms know what I am talking about), and I hear it's the best part of Brooklyn's Finest, so make sure you get to the Cineplex with plenty of time to spare.
2 ½ Waffles (Out of 4)
Brooklyn's Finest is rated R for bloody violence throughout, strong sexuality, nudity, drug content and pervasive language.
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