Friday, August 19, 2011

"31 Movies, 31 Days": #13 Brooklyn's Finest

Movie: Brooklyn's Finest (2009)
Budget: $25 million

Rotten Tomatoes: 42%
Format: Netflix streaming

It's not exactly The Wire (though it shares several of its actors), but Brooklyn's Finest is a dark, gritty, ensemble police drama that successfully interweaves several stories around a drug-dealing housing project in Brooklyn. Whereas The Wire had the luxury of being slow and methodical, something which added layer upon layer to the characters and story, Brooklyn's Finest has but two hours to make it all work...and, for the most part, succeeds.

Skillfully directed by Training Day's Antoine Fuqua, Brooklyn's Finest can almost be viewed as an homage to the work of the recently deceased Sidney Lumet. There's a splash of Q&A here, a pinch of Prince of the City there, and a smattering of Serpico just for added flavor. It's a world where every character is deeply flawed---each afflicted with some tragic trait which weighs heavily on both them and the audience. Good people do bad things, and bad people do good things. Nobody is all good, and nobody is all bad. It's my favorite sort of theme, and Brooklyn's Finest has it in spades.

Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke and Don Cheadle all play police officers in different jobs and at different stages of their lives. Gere is a burned out, soon-to-retire beat cop who checked out a long time ago. Hawke plays a detective on the drug enforcement side and struggles to make ends meet with countless kids depending on him at home. No, really, I stopped counting his kids because two new kids would pop up in every scene! Cheadle completes this trio as an undercover cop who's been under too long and starts to identify a little too closely with his targets. While we've seen characters in these unoriginal situations before, the combination of all three, especially with the added intensity provided by Fuqua, and also in concert with a perfectly heavy-handed score (think Before the Devil Knows You're Dead by Lumet), makes it all seem oddly fresh.

Originality is not Brooklyn's Finest strongest quality. It's riddled with cliches and you can almost guess what's going to happen from scene one, but all of that matters very little when you have strong performances and a well-told story. Wesley Snipes and Ellen Barkin have great supporting roles, and Vincent D'Onofrio is outstanding in a bit part. If you like Lumet-style police dramas, Brooklyn's Finest is an underrated gem. With a 42% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I think the critics missed the boat on this one.

Kraig's Rating: 7/10

Movie #1: Skyline
Movie #2: Killers
Movie #3: The Iron Giant
Movie #4: The Adjustment Bureau
Movie #5: Rubber
Movie #6: The Fighter
Movie #7: The Winning Season
Movie #8: World's Greatest Dad
Movie #9: Hobo With a Shotgun
Movie #10: The Lincoln Lawyer
Movie #11: Stake Land
Movie #12: Horrible Bosses


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