Saturday, March 06, 2010

Brooklyn's Finest

BROOKLYN'S FINEST (Antoine Fuqua, 2009)

BROOKLYN'S FINEST tells separate but eventually converging stories about three New York City cops wrestling with the inherent problems of their jobs.

With an expanding family incapable of comfortably occupying their home, Sal (Ethan Hawke) supplements his meager income by stealing from criminals and crime scenes. Eddie (Richard Gere) is a week away from retirement. He tries to ignore the problems he sees on the streets when not on the clock, but a glimpse at his desperate, lonely life shows that he lugs around all the terrible stuff he witnesses. Tango (Don Cheadle) has a strong desire to transfer out of his deep undercover assignment, especially when he's asked to bring down a drug dealer who's watched his back for years.

BROOKLYN'S FINEST weaves together familiar stories of police corruption and desperation that feel much smaller in size than the near-epic runtime suggests they deserve. Character development and the intertwined threads are conveyed in shorthand. Director Antoine Fuqua gives the well-trod material more room to roam than necessary but fails to shade it in anything but the drabbest law enforcement blue.

The dueling brevity and long-windedness means that BROOKLYN'S FINEST is best suited either to a lean cop drama in theaters or, in an ideal scenario, serialized television. In a TV show the characters can be granted more intricate and well-rounded arcs than is possible in 132 minutes divided among three leads. Fuqua delivers a watchable film but one that's also bland and derivative.

BROOKLYN'S FINEST fails to surprise at pretty much every turn. The lack of originality or the unexpected wouldn't be as large of an issue if the three protagonists held more interest, but these beleaguered officers' grim tales fail to make an impression. Hawke's at his scuzziest, Gere is at his most tragic, and Cheadle is at his most honorably conflicted. In skimming each of their plot lines, BROOKLYN'S FINEST simply doesn't find a way to do justice to to any of them.

Grade: C

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