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Sunday, June 20, 2010

BROOKLYN'S FINEST -- DVD review by porfle

BROOKLYN'S FINEST (2010) turns the old cliche' about the veteran cop who's retiring in three days on its ear--this time, he's retiring in seven days.  Fortunately, that's not the only difference, as we soon discover in this riveting tale of three cops who know all too well that it isn't easy being the good guys. 

Richard Gere is gradually getting more interesting to watch as he gets older.  His "Eddie Dugan" character is a burnt-out cop who greets each morning by sitting bolt upright out of a nightmare, swilling a shot of booze, and playing Russian roulette.  The rookie cops he's paired with are shocked by his apathy and seeming disregard for the violence and victimization going on all around them as they patrol the mean streets of Brooklyn.  Gere, now a more seasoned actor who manages to play tired and old even though he still retains that matinee idol veneer, portrays Eddie as someone who's simply been numbed past the point of caring until something happens to restore a spark of compassion and give him a chance to redeem himself. 

His story is intertwined with those of two other cops who are also reaching the end of their ropes.  Bursting with a frantic intensity, Ethan Hawke reminds me of a young Mickey Rourke as Sal, a narcotics cop whose obsession with giving his family a better life has driven him to kill drug dealers and avail himself of their stacks of money he could never earn honestly.  On the other end of this vicious cycle is Don Cheadle (one of my favorite actors who has that deep-seated look of inner suffering down pat) as Tango, an undercover cop doing a Donnie Brasco inside the cutthroat mob of drug kingpin Caz (Wesley Snipes) and finding himself becoming more sympathetic to Caz and hostile toward his fellow cops as the months and years drag on.

The deft intercutting of these three storylines throughout the film, as each forges its way inexorably toward potential disaster, often gives it the feeling of a pressure cooker ready to blow any minute.  We care about these guys and want things to work out for them, but an edgy sense of dread kicks in from the very start and makes it obvious that there are going to be some fatalities before the whole thing's over.  One sequence in particular, which occurs about midway through the film, has the urgency of a lit fuse slowly burning its way toward detonation.  More than most cop films I've seen, this one has the tension of a war movie. 

Director Antoine Fuqua (TRAINING DAY) captures the dark, gritty realism of both the inner city drug trade at its most ruthless and the desperation of underpaid, beleagered cops on the front lines.  Michael C. Martin's taut screenplay explores the moral and spiritual turmoil of the three main characters as their pressing personal concerns blur the line between right and wrong.  Location shooting in Brooklyn and the use of local inhabitants as extras adds to the atmosphere.

The excellent supporting cast includes Lili Taylor as Sal's pregnant wife Angie, Will Patton (another fave of mine) as a police official forever stringing Tango along, and Shannon Kane as a beautiful, sympathetic prostitute who helps Eddie pretend that he has a love life.  As special agent Smith, a snarling harpy who threatens to destroy Tango if he doesn't straighten up and fly right, Ellen Barkin gives us a wonderfully vile update of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE's Rosa Klebb.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1, with English and Spanish subtitles.  Extras include a detailed, scene-specific director's commentary, four "making-of" featurettes, over half an hour's worth of deleted scenes, and trailers for this and other Anchor Bay releases. 

As it turns out, none of these three cop stories on their own are all that fully developed, some heading straight toward conclusions that have a resigned inevitability.  One, however, is upbeat enough to keep BROOKLYN'S FINEST from being a total, dispiriting wallow in pessimism, and together they add up to an exciting and compelling narrative. 

Buy it at
Brooklyn's Finest
Brooklyn's Finest [Blu-ray]

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