Monday, March 15, 2010

A Review: Brooklyn's Finest Try Their Best, But How Shiny Is The Badge?

Night time; desolate dirty road and scarce streetlights. A parked car sits under the blanket of the dark night.

It's not a matter of right and wrong, it's a matter of righter and wronger.

...Are some of the first words we hear in the opening scene of the film, from a memorable and nicely added cameo by Vincent D'Onofrio. They also set the whole tone of the rest of the film as well. As we see Fuqua and team give you the gritty streets of the notoriously rough Brownsville section of Brooklyn.

Antoine's talent behind the camera and the recruitment of the likes of Gere, Hawke, Cheadle and even Snipes as well (coming through as good as I've always said he could), prove that a trite message that overbears in a so-so script can sometimes be overshadowed by elevating performances and very on-point directing. Period. Film saved. And in lesser hands, I shudder to think how much of an impact this would have had on the Sundance audience and potential distributors, most likely, none.

Brooklyn's Finest, by Antoine Fuqua, responsible for the films Training Day (also with Hawke) and Shooter, to name a few. Shooter had a lot missing and not much driving it other than Mark Wahlberg's face with a copy and paste angry man's look all over it. I still haven't got around to Tears Of The Sun, the Bruce Willis toplined war film co-starring Monica Belucci. All I know is that after Fuqua was ready to quit the major studio's and go Indie all over again due to Willis insatiable attitude for his demands and other small problems along the way.

Fuqua eventually got his wish for smaller pics and more control with this. Although he changed the ending from the original screener at Sundance, he got his point across and the film was the first one picked up at the festival, sparking a small bidding war over it. And for good reason, 3/4's in, the film starts it's steady incline to hitting it's high notes, and has me feeling a nuance for a little bit of Magnolia, and a little bit of Crash. Only to end up relying too much on bullets and not enough on brains with barely a few minutes left and thus disappointing me more than I would have like to be. It left me wondering if first time writer Michael C. Martin got the wrap-it-up box from Dave Chappelle. 

Three policemen struggle with the sometimes fine line between right and wrong in this film. Detective Salvatore "Sal" Procida (Hawke) is trying to get abigger better house and life for his family of five, with his twins on the way per his wife. And has been resorting to "other means" to finance the down payment on the dream home. Officer Eddie Dugan (Gere) is7 days out from retirement on a 22 year stretch as  NYC cop. Dugan has shut himself off and clinically "burned out" on ambitions for a life outside the force, and would rather play with an unloaded gun in his mouth, tempting himself. And finally the third story, Undercover detective Clarence "Tango" Butler (Cheadle), on assignment walking the drug beat and trying to make big arrests. Only his latest assignment would be to bring in Caz (Snipes echoing his New Jack City performance), recently released from prison and also a dear friend. We watch as these men walk day in and day out the streets within the Van Dyke housing projects in the 65th precinct of the famed NYPD. As they test their moral strength and internal ethics to do what is right, and what is ultimately the paradoxical "wrong thing for the right cause".

So yeah, with that being said, the film did it's job, very well in deed. And I applaud these guys for making it happen. They all take the film seriously, and pour their passion for the city's police into the project. The script triumph's in the course of action it takes: going inside the mind of heavy violence/drug/crime area cop, and bringing that to the screen. As we the see the heavy violence/drugs/crime penetrate these policeman and guide they're behavior through the film. Cheadle as the undercover thug, is almost reminiscent of his small appearance on Fresh Prince Of Bel Air, as Will's hommie from the hood. And we see his problems he has, black man, black car, black neighborhood, he begs his C.O. to "try harder". Suit, Tie, Desk, Air conditioning, is all he wants. Cheadle never let's you down, and proved once again how capable he is. But sadly, his story just wasn't doing it for me as fun as it was to watch. It's cliched so heavily, if it hit the water, it would sink faster than Mike Myer's The Love Guru did at the box office last summer. (Bet you totally forgot that was even a movie huh?)

Gere and Hawke never bring less than everything they can to a role, and show you this eloquently, more so Gere, who proves to me once again, how (dare I say underrated?) he is, and how utilizing him is such a good idea. We get to see something rare in a Gere film, one where he is an asshole and doesn't give a fuck who knows it. Gere at the end of his rope, not the suave, sweet soft talking man with the pretty girl and lifestyle. Gere went out to a different branch of his tree this time and I loved him for it. Hoorah I say. His storyline was my favorite, because it lack a real sense of drive, it's just about a man, who happens to be a cop, who happens to have a fuck my life attitude, and we watch as we always want for more. Hawke is the stressed out detective, trying to be the good Catholic he was raised as for his family, and the hard cop he needs to be out on the street for his job. I'd be hard pressed to see another actor who can pour the pressure onto his character's faces and the dirty emoting that always looks so appropriate as he can. Seeing this man in one film to another, the go-to for the guy who hates getting shit on and tries to fix that by doing it his own way, Hawke does it so good.

Marcelo Zarvos had me hook, line and sinker with his score for The Door In The Floor, but now seeing him now in this one, I was always being dragged away from the pulse of the film, whenever he chimed in so very inopportunely.

Over all, I have to disagree with my dear aunt Margie, who is as much an avid film go-er as I am. Don't wait til the DVD get out to see this. As we watch all three paths these men walk converge in a memorable and unique climax (although not without it severe drawbacks). Break out the popcorn, and enjoy the dirty streets of Brooklyn, as the men and woman, and children all leave you with thoughts, and feelings and images for lifestyles simply wishing for more, for better, and they keep trying to do just that. 

Para Hawke's most appropriate line as he rises in an elevator, this is another basic quality the films rings with, that I happen to find fitting:

St. Michael, defend us in battle. And be the safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil.

Munki Out. 

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