Release Date: Out Now
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writer: Michael C. Martin
Cinematographer: Patrick Murguia
Starring: Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke, Richard Gere, Wesley Snipes
Studio/Runtime: Overture, 133 mins.
Three Brooklyn cops, one well-worn destination
Antoine Fuqua, director of the stiff-shouldered new drama Brooklyn’s Finest, mines the sturdy, winded mythology of the big-city-cop movie with sincerity. He works best at a mid-range budget and makes muscular, brutal movies that trade in the clichés of the genre but demand our submission to their dramatic overtures. “King Kong ain’t got shit on me!” Denzel Washington famously declares in Training Day, Fuqua’s best film, and we need not look further than that line to understand the filmmaker who commissioned it.
After an ill-advised foray into Bruckheimer money with King Arthur and the nondescript action flick Shooter, Fuqua scaled back with Brooklyn’s Finest, which originally premiered at Sundance back in 2009. This time we have the stories of three Brooklyn cops, structured in now-familiar parallels: a narc with dubious loyalties (Don Cheadle), a tapped-out Roman Catholic who can’t support his family (Ethan Hawke) and an indifferent street cop on the cusp of retirement (Richard Gere). Grim fates loom as the men carefully tend their individual paths to destruction.
Fuqua directs handsome movies, and his easy-handed on-location camerawork befit the character-propelled segments of the movie. Hawke comes closest to channeling his character’s overextended anguish, but the most entertaining performance comes from Ellen Barkin, who devours her co-stars in a welcome foil to the movie’s housewives and hookers. Trouble sets in when our three Brooklyn knights end up in the same squalid apartment complex in the last half hour, where Fuqua indulges the rather unfortunate belief that movies with multiple characters need to Come Together and Mean Something. The frenzied men who pace through Brooklyn’s Finest are trapped in a web, and before long it becomes clear the movie has no intention of setting them free.