Until a truly thrilling finale finds the lives of the film's morally torn Brooklyn police officers intersecting at the city's most notoriously crime-ridden BK housing project in a way that recalls everything from Crash to Magnolia, there's not a whole lot about Brooklyn's Finest that's worth recommending.
Foreshadowing the bloody bullet strewn devastation that is bound to follow, the film opens with Ethan Hawke's cop Sal blowing the head off of a guy only to pocket enough dirty money to try and move his large family out of their crowded mold filled home.
Shortly thereafter Richard Gere's nearly retired Eddie Dugan awakens to another morning ritual of a stiff shot of whiskey and clicking an empty round of his bedside revolver into his mouth before reluctantly checking in at work where he's told that as an old-timer, he's supposed to show a young rookie the ropes during his last week on the force.
Needless to say, these aren't exactly the type of “boys in blue” heroes that children grow up wanting to emulate by playing cops and robbers in their backyards. However, in the film the one who easily generates most of our sympathy is Don Cheadle's deep undercover agent Clarence who goes by the name of Tango on the street.
Having voluntarily allowed himself to do hard time in order to gain the trust of one of Brooklyn's biggest gang-bangers, Wesley Snipes' Caz, Tango realizes that he's having a hard time justifying lying to the man who saved his life in prison in order to make detective first grade.
When his handler's role is usurped by a ruthless, harsh-talking agent played by Ellen Barkin, Cheadle's Tango must decide where his loyalties truly lie and if the end justifies the means given how many lives will be ruined in the course of the investigation, including possibly his own.
Novice screenwriter Michael C. Martin's work is highly ambitious given the sheer number of characters involved but one of the main problems with Finest stems from the fact that it basically recycles the plots and characters from vastly superior movies.
And despite its obvious nods to Scorsese with classic rock playing in key scenes with Gere or Cheadle, the Coppola infusion of violence and religion in Hawke's plot-line, the incessant sound of the elevated train and a few sequences inspired by The French Connection among other films, ultimately Training Day director Antoine Fuqua's production fails to offer us any new insight into the sordid lives his characters lead.
Self-consciously gritty and predictably morose, in Brooklyn's Finest good rookie cops are either killed or ruined by making the wrong decision at the wrong time and too much time is spent relishing in the decay of the lives led by the hardened, morally bankrupt cops with gratuitous violence, T&A galore, and out-of-character speech-making to try and drive points home.
By failing to make choices regarding whether or not Gere or particularly Hawke will pontificate yet again as to why they're doing what they're doing aloud verses representing these same choices visually, the overly long film quickly grows repetitive as viewers in turn grow impatient in wanting to spend time in such unlikable company when they're bringing nothing either memorable or original to the table.
And aside from uniformly excellent portrayals by the cast that try to make the most of their thinly drawn roles, Finest boasts a dynamic, driving score by Marcelo Zarvos that manages to elevate certain sequences of drug raids or pursuit of suspects to near poetic levels, therefore earning composer Zarvos the title of the film's unsung MVP.
However, despite the terrifically executed final act for all three main characters that reminds us that Fuqua's artistry is on par with other recent crooked cops movies such as Pride and Glory and We Own the Night and nearly makes us forgive some of the more unbearable sequences that came before it, unfortunately Finest needed to spend a little more time back at the training academy before it was deemed street ready.
Text ©2010, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.