In one of the opening scenes of the film, Richard Gere practices committing suicide with an unloaded gun. No, all those gerbil rumours haven’t gotten too much for him. Rather, this scene is emblematic of the themes and tone of Brooklyn’s Finest.
Antoine Fuqua’s film follows the stories of three cops, all in different stages of their career. Although, for the most part, their stories are unconnected, they work on the same dangerous and jaded streets…
Brooklyn’s Finest works well as an absorbing crime drama, although the outlook is decidedly bleak. The streets of the precinct are devoid of hope, and each cop appears jaded in their own particular way.
In one respect, the film highlights the dangerous realities of being a cop in a place such as Brooklyn. Sal and his friends lament that they are worth more to their families dead rather than alive, due to the $100,000 payout their relatives would receive. On the other hand, however, the film is satiated with graphic violence. Thus the realities of the situation are off-set with the sometimes gratuitous violence. It does not seem a coincidence that characters are frequently shown playing video games, as the action of the film appears to resemble one, at times.
Richard Gere, Don Cheadle and Ethan Hawke all give solid performances. It is perhaps Hawke who excels most, as his frustration at not being able to provide for his family garners the most sympathy. Elsewhere, Wesley Snipes delivers a star turn as Caz, a recently released convict; a role that seems to have been written for Snipes. In this testosterone-filled film, women with significant roles are hard to come by; most cast are either prostitutes or dancers. Ellen Barkin is convincingly unlikable in the only powerful female role.
Overall, Brooklyn’s Finest is a film that delivers, but is also one that offers no real surprises from the director of Training Day. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as Brooklyn’s Finest is a well-crafted drama. But for all its hints of early Scorsese (the themes of crime, the city and Catholicism), the film lacks the magic that would elevate it to ‘classic’ status.