Under The Wire

Not sure whether to see Brooklyn’s Finest? Don’t worry — you’ve seen it before. The film is directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Shooter) and follows three New York City police, each with their own set of banal cop movie problems. Eddie Dugan (played by Richard Gere) has one week left until he retires and is already tapped out. Sal Procida (Ethan Hawke) is a devout Catholic who chooses to steal drug money rather than use birth control to support his wife and six kids. Clarence “Tango” Butler (Don Cheadle) is an undercover cop who feels conflicted over turning in his friend, a New York drug kingpin, portrayed by Wesley Snipes. The film takes elements of both Crash and, more transparently, HBO’s The Wire (not one but three actors from The Wire have roles in this film) to create a dismal and inter-connected portrayal of Brooklyn’s police department.

Unlike The Wire, which has been widely praised for its real-life portrayal of Baltimore crime, Brooklyn’s Finest is jam-packed with clichéd storylines and stock characters. Before you’ve even had a chance to get to know any of the characters you are hit over the head with the film’s theme of moral ambiguity in an immoral world. Not only does the film begin with two characters having a discussion about the perils of right and wrong, but within 10 minutes we are told that an innocent boy was murdered by a police officer who was trying to rob him. Clearly, Fuqua is doing everything he can to keep his leads from being too likeable.

Even the seasoned cast here is not enough to save the film. Cheadle and Hawke perform admirably with a weak script, but it is evident that Gere is out of his element. His portrayal of Eddie feels extremely wooden, and not even the appearance of a hooker with a heart of gold could make up for how one-dimensional the character is. Hopefully, this foray into criminal drama will convince Gere to stay in romantic comedy where he belongs.

It is evident from the start that this film will provide no happy ending for viewers. Fuqua seems determined to make the film as dismal as possible, and does everything he can to portray how hopeless each of his lead’s lives are. In case that wasn’t enough, the audience is beat over the head with music that is overbearing and unnecessarily ominous. When the violent ending finally comes it is more a relief than anything else. Although there are moments where Brooklyn’s Finest comes close to good storytelling, the film is just way too heavy-handed and clichéd to feel like anything more than caricature.

Brooklyn’s Finest is a valiant attempt by Fuqua, but he fails miserably to produce anything of substance.

1 star out of 5