Antoine Fuqua made the astonishing Training Day back in 2001. It was a gritty, hard-hitting, dirty cop movie starring Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. It’s an absolutely amazing film, one of my favorites. That was his first big movie, since he hasn’t made anything too memorable. I never saw Tears of the Sun and Shooter was alright at best, but still nothing memorable. Now he comes with Brooklyn’s Finest, which looks like a return to Training Day, but does it succeed with its goal?
Brooklyn’s Finest is about three [clichéd] unrelated stories about Brooklyn’s finest. The first story stars Richard Gere playing Eddie, a cop who has seven days until he retires and is assigned to train some rookies. The first time we see Eddie he tries to kill himself, with a unloaded gun. He is depressed, and really has never accomplished anything with his life, especially as a police officer. Sounds kind of familiar doesn’t it?
The next story involves Ethan Hawke playing Sal, a father of a big family; he has four kids, with twins on the way. He needs money and will do anything to get it. He is in the opening scene were he is talking to a guy in a car and then shoots the man and takes his wallet. Sounds familiar doesn’t it (the general outline, not the shooting)?
The third story is about Don Cheadle who plays Tango, an undercover cop starting to get confused whether he is a cop or criminal, and wants his old life back. OK, so that ridiculously sounds familiar. A side player in Cheadle’s plot is Wesley Snipes in his return to the screen role as Caz, Cheadle’s boss (not cop, but criminal). Snipes hasn’t been in theatrical released movie since Blade Trinity back in 2004, but he doesn’t give us anything memorable. So now that the [clichéd] plot is out of the way, let’s focus on the specific aspects of the film.
The direction from Fuqua, I’m not going to lie, is pretty admirable, except for one slow-motion walk to the camera, only flaw honestly. He has some beautiful tracking shots of Brooklyn, some following shots in front of, and behind, the actors, which could possibly be my favorite shot. He never really gets to close to the actor, and gives them space to act freely, which was the strongest point in the movie. So not only on a technical level did Fuqua do good, but he also did good on controlling the movie. He let the actors work freely but without letting them get too overdramatic, which is perfect! So Fuqua, if he chose better material, could have made an Oscar winner. Instead he falls into a pit of clichés and this work will be forgotten, quite a shame.
The simple and plain best part of this film is the acting; it’s quite phenomenal, for the most part. The star in my opinion, which comes as no surprise, came from Ethan Hawke. He is one of my favorite actors, slowly climbing up the bar, and this just adds to his great career of acting. He has acted in tons of films, like Dead Poets Society (1989), Alive (1993), Before Sunrise (1995), Gattaca (1997), Hamlet (2000), Tape (2001), Training Day (2001) in which he received an Oscar Nomination, Lord of War (2005), and my personal favorite of his, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007). He has played a bunch of different role but this cop role of his is a combination of Denzel’s and Hawke’s in Training Day. He is a good-soled cop but his morals are confused and is border-line dirty. Hawke plays this role with great persistence, he is a family man in need, a tough cop, and a good man confused. Every scene with him really lights up the movie, he surpasses Gere, Cheadle, and Snipes. He nails the role plain and simple.
Cheadle also brings a good spark to this clichéd role. This character has been done, over, and over, and over again, and it is quite tiring. But Cheadle brings something fresh, trueness if you will. He feels like one of the few “real people” playing this role. There were times when he went a little overboard, but I feel that’s the writer’s fault, not Cheadle’s. He has a lot of emotion that he lets out in little balls, scene after scene. He was probably the third main as far as screen time goes, maybe second over Hawke, but he definitely stands his ground is worth the watch.
Now the disappointing part in the acting department. Richard Gere really did have the main role, and though he did adequate, he did nothing special especially when compared to Cheadle and Hawke. His character was… distant, and that was not just the writer’s fault Gere didn’t bring his A-Game to the table making me like him. I really didn’t care what happened to Gere and left me emotionally distant. He does what any other semi-decent actor would do in a role this overdone. Gere could have been out casted by so many different, better actors. I am really disappointed, but overall he still did a good job.
Now comes the big flaw in the movie, and most movies nowadays; the script. To me, if a movie doesn’t have a good script or story, there is no movie. You could have fantastic acting, directing, cinematography, editing etc. But if the story is weak, the movie is weak. This years Shutter Island is an example of how I feel about this, well made movie, very bad script.
Brooklyn’s Finest was written by first time movie writer Michael C. Martin. I think in preparation of this film he sat down, watched every cop movie ever, took notes, and ripped them all off. There is not one original thing about it. It really is a very strong character drama, but it’s far too long. I lost interest about half way through and couldn’t wait for it to end. He didn’t do Gere’s character justice, it was a bad lead. Also the terrible clichés can’t stop talking about it because it was the biggest fault in the movie. Also the fact that nothing really happens until the last 20 minutes or so is problem, especially since it’s a cop movies. Cop movies should entertaining and be exhilarating, this fails.
I wasn’t expecting much in the first place but I got even less. It’s a good character drama but fails in the most important department, the script.
** ½ (out of *****); Rent It