by Mel Valentin
"Brooklyn’s Finest," Antoine Fuqua’s ("Tears of the Sun," "King Arthur," "Training Day," "The Replacements") latest film, premiered last January at the Sundance Film Festival. The original distributor, Senator Distribution, went bankrupt, leaving Fuqua and his film in limbo. Overture Films picked "Brooklyn’s Finest" at the Venice Film Festival last September and set distribution for the first week in March (and here we are). The version we’re seeing, however, is 20 minutes shorter than the version that premiered last January at Park City, Utah. It also includes a slightly different ending (for one character at least). Despite the changes Fuqua made in the interim, "Brooklyn’s Finest" remains a collection of genre clichés and missed opportunities, ultimately relegating it to the misfire category.Brooklyn’s Finest follows three characters, Salvatore "Sal" Procida (Ethan Hawke), a corrupt detective and member of anti-drug task force, Clarence “Tango” Butler (Don Cheadle), an undercover cop running with a violent, drug-dealing crew led by the recently-out-of-jail Caz (Wesley Snipes), and Eddie Dugan (Richard Gere), a beat cop a week away from retirement. Attempting to live up to his self-image as a breadwinner and all-around provider for his growing family, Sal rips off drug dealers and petty criminals. Tango has gotten in so deep that his handler, Lt. Bill Hobarts (Will Patton), actively expresses concerns about his loyalties (they’re divided, of course). With a broken marriage and no children, Dugan purchases faux intimacy from Chantel (Shannon Kane), an African-American prostitute.
"A collection of genre clichés and missed opportunities."
Over the course of a week, Sal’s financial predicament worsens considerably. He’s short the deposit needed for a bigger house, his wife, Angela (Lili Taylor), expecting twins, ends up in the hospital due to wood mold in their current house, and the drug dealers he robs aren’t holding enough cash to make up the difference. Tango gets served divorce papers from his estranged (offscreen) wife, while resisting pressure from Hobarts and an FBI agent, Smith (Ellen Barkin), to ensnare Caz in a faux drug deal with undercover FBI agents. Tango wears down over betraying Caz, a man who saved his life in prison. Dugan gets two idealistic rookies, Melvin Panton (Logan Marshall-Green) and Eddie Quinlan (Jesse Williams), to train before he turns in his badge and gun.
From the preceding description, it’s obvious (or it seems obvious), where Fuqua and his screenwriter, Michael C. Martin, will take Brooklyn’s Finest: toward a three-character pileup (or so we think). Borrowing elements from Fuqua’s much-superior Training Day (with Hawke in the Denzel Washington role) and The Shield (Hawke in the Michael Chiklis role), the also superior Donnie Bosco (with Cheadle in the Johnny Depp role), and, at least in part, Lethal Weapon (with Gere in Danny Glover’s “I’m too old for this sh*t” spot), along with Taxi Driver (among others), Brooklyn’s Finest hits every generic character and emotional beat as it wends its way toward a disappointingly predictable freeze frame.Oddly, though, Fuqua doesn’t satisfy one expectation, that the characters and their individual stories will overlap and criss-cross over the film, ultimately building toward a confrontation where misidentifications and misunderstandings lead to a tragic denouement where one or none of the characters finds the resolution or redemption they’ve been seeking since the opening frame. Instead of allowing the stories to converge, Fuqua resolves the individual stories sequentially. The characters cross paths, but only tangentially, only accidentally, in a housing project. It’s the one, last confirmation that "Brooklyn’s Finest" is another missed opportunity for Fuqua, a talented filmmaker prone to choosing weak material.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=18197&reviewer=402
originally posted: 03/06/10 01:00:00