Antoine Fuqua, director of the 2001 crime drama Training Day, returns to the dirty-cop genre with the ironically titled “Brooklyn’s Finest” starring Ethan Hawke, Don Cheadle and Richard Gere.The film’s plot revolves around three unconnected cops who become wrapped up in a drug bust gone wrong.
It fails to repeat the success Fuqua garnered for Training Day, the film Denzel Washington received the Oscar for Best Actor.
This is not to say Brooklyn’s Finest is a “bad” film, in fact Fuqua’s unobtrusive direction adds to the film’s gritty atmosphere but it cannot elevate a plot that depends too much on well-worn clichés and derivative moral ambiguity.
As a first time screenwriter Michael C. Martin’s script falls victim to obvious plot devices and cookie cutter character studies, which reference previous crime dramas such as Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” and Fuqua’s “Training Day.”
We have the undercover cop torn between conflicting loyalties (Cheadle), the tormented veteran who turned to drinking to escape the horror of the Brooklyn streets (Gere) and a Catholic detective who can’t support his family on a measly NYPD paycheck.
Predictably each of our main characters will go to desperate measures to overcome their bleak situations.
In fact, the most original feature of the film is its staunch loyalty to a grim outlook on cop life in New York City’s most brutal precinct.
We are introduced to a world where the cops sleep with hookers, attempt to steal drug money for personal gain and suffer enough infighting to almost render their efforts completely meaningless.
As the film progresses, this deeply rooted sense of glum becomes predictable. It becomes clear none of our main characters will escape their fate unscathed.
Cheadle’s story as undercover cop Tango weaves between two extremes.
While intriguing when we see him pulled over by cop unaware of his undercover status it seems predictable when forced to set up a criminal that became his friend during his years undercover.
All three actors make the most of their respective roles, with Ethan Hawke emerging on top.
Despite the performances, the subject matter remains firmly mired in a muck of trite plot devices, stunted character development and tired moral heavy handedness.
The strength of this film lays in its construction beyond the plot.
In one key sequence during the film’s midpoint, Fuqua edits quickly between all three characters during a test of their judgment.
Sal is caught in the temptation to steal drug money, Tango must keep his cover while criminals beat up an innocent man and Eddie goes against his better instinct when he allows a rookie cop to keep the peace.
Ultimately, the faults of the script undermine the film’s able-minded construction and performances.
It enters the pantheon of the crime genre as just another middling experience whose overly bleak vision relies heavily on predictable plot devices and overly familiar character types.
Keinan Fry is a fourth year student majoring in English. He can be reached at KF634551@wcupa.edu.