DVD Release Date:  July 6, 2010
Theatrical Release Date:  March 5, 2010
Rating:  R (for bloody violence throughout, strong sexuality, nudity, drug content and pervasive language)
Genre:  Drama
Run Time:  140 min.
Director:  Antoine Fuqua
Actors:  Wesley Snipes, Ethan Hawke, Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Will Patton, Lili Taylor, Ellen Barkin

Police work is tough. It takes a toll. It makes you jaded or worse. If you live in New York and have a family, the low pay and high risk can lead to stress and moral compromise. If you need to move up the socioeconomic ladder, the quickest route might be to pocket the dirty money strewn about the room after the latest drug bust.

Heard those stories before? Brooklyn's Finest contains all of them and then some.

It opens with Sal (Ethan Hawke) committing an act of violence, followed by a scene of him confessing his sins to a priest and peppering the priest with questions and accusations about the lack of God's presence in his life. The priest encourages Sal to look to God for help, but Sal dismisses the advice, saying he's asked for God's help many times before. "Why does God get all the glory?" he challenges the priest. "Is it possible," Sal spits out, contemptuously, "that God isn't carrying his end of the weight?"

Sal is growing more desperate with each day. Already struggling to make ends meet, he's just learned that his wife is expecting twins, and that mold in his home is affecting the babies' development. He needs to move but has no money to do so. Day after day, he comes across drug money during his police raids. He tells his friends that he understands why some cops might be tempted to take the money. What he doesn't tell them is that he's one of those dirty cops.

Tango (Don Cheadle) is tired of working undercover to expose drug dealers and other lowlifes. He tells his boss (Will Patton) that he wants a desk job. His boss says he'll recommend him for such a job—right after Tango leads police to Caz (Wesley Snipes).

Another storyline introduces Eddie (Richard Gere), a suicidal cop. We know this because the first time we see him, he puts a gun in his mouth and pulls the trigger (the gun's not loaded). He's separated from his wife. He has sex with a prostitute, and will again, later in the film. His superior asks him to train a rookie cop, even though—you won't believe this—he's only a few days from retirement.

These plot strands will eventually come together, although it's not clear why they should, other than that all three men are part of "Brooklyn's finest." The way in which the story threads merge actually hurts the film—it stretches believability and takes viewers out of the film at just the point where they should be drawn further into it.

James Gray, director of We Own the Night, was lauded for breathing new life into that film genre. Director Antoine Fuqua (Shooter, Training Day) looks like he'll pull off the same feat early in Brooklyn's Finest, eliciting solid performances from Cheadle, Hawke and Snipes that hold our interest even though we've seen characters like these many times. Strikingly filmed by Patrick Murguia, the film contains several memorable uses of the widescreen frame, often in shots as simple as a lone individual speaking to another character while looking directly into the camera. The actors make the most of the material.

However, the film also revels in "R"-rated excess. It's one of the more explicit, gratuitously sexual films in some time, and its rough dialogue hardly ever lets up. Brooklyn's Finest does present a moral dimension to its characters' struggles—Sal's struggles with God are expressed verbally and through visual cues like a cross in his home and an opulent religious tattoo on his back—but it never follows through with those concerns, instead preferring the bloodletting customary to the genre.

In the film's favor is its demonstration that the characters' sins have consequences (Romans 6:23). Nevertheless, a moral action late in the film by one of its many immoral characters feels tacked on, even ludicrous.

Brooklyn's Finest is tough going. Its solid performances and hints of redemption make it better than many bad-cop dramas, but it spends too long wallowing in depraved behavior to qualify as recommended viewing.


Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at crosswalkchristian@verizon.net.

CAUTIONS: