Review by Jack Foley
DIRECTOR Antoine Fuqua returns to the same territory that helped make his name with Training Day for this gritty, downbeat police thriller that boasts a fine ensemble cast.
Brooklyn’s Finest, contrary to what it’s name suggests, is a hard-hitting trawl through New York’s mean streets that paints a bleak picture of the NYPD’s ‘finest’.
It follows three ‘on-edge’ cops as they attempt to balance complicated personal lives with the demands of life on the street.
For Don Cheadle’s undercover cop, this is juggling his desire for career advancement with his reluctance to bring down his drug-dealing best friend (Wesley Snipes), while for Ethan Hawke’s desperate family man, it’s staying true to the badge while trying to finance a new home for his ever-burgeoning family.
Richard Gere’s career veteran, meanwhile, is counting down the days to retirement while being forced to break in and inspire new recruits.
Just as he did with Training Day, Fuqua has chosen to shoot much of Brooklyn’s Finest in real locations to heighten the authenticity of proceedings – and this lends the film an edge that feels painfully real.
But while Training Day unfolded over 24 hours, this one takes a week and is less about bravado than it is desperation. There’s no Denzel Washington-style showboating here.
Rather, it’s protagonists wear the look of doomed men… and their frustrations and anxieties make for painfully raw, but equally compelling, viewing.
All three leads also trade well on past performances. Hawke, especially, is a clever plant by Fuqua given his Training Day background, while Gere’s cop recalls fond memories of his Internal Affairs days – both men are complex, dark individuals.
Cheadle, meanwhile, trades well on his good guy persona to deliver some genuine surprises… and gets to work really well with an on-form Snipes.
The violence is sparse but hard-hitting, while the characters seldom meet and are by no means on a collision course ending.
The resolutely downbeat tone may be too grim and exhausting for some viewers (especially at over two hours), but Fuqua offers gripping and often thought-provoking passage through morally and ethically challenging situations that treat viewers like adults.
And while his ending may appear a little too contrived for some tastes, it guarantees that – like Training Day before it – Brooklyn’s Finest stays with you for some time afterwards.
After some recent directorial disappointments, this is somewhere approaching Fuqua’s finest once again… and comes recommended.
Running time: 132mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: October 18, 2010