Friday, March 12, 2010



BROOKLYNS FINEST is a beautiful, perfectly-acted, straight-up retread. Director Antoine Fuqua has brought absolutely nothing new to the cops ‘n robber genre with this one and may have in fact set it back.

Fuqua’s TRAINING DAY is a 40 oz classic. It is LA, rapper-heavy, weed-laced and rife with clich├ęs. But TD is about as street as a west coast crime film gets. Both Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke really do present their moral tug of war with the streets well. Yes, TD was essentially a familiar tune, but it had lots and lots of style.

BROOKLYNS FINEST carries a new batch of boiler plate banalities to the table, and the style is now gone. Perhaps Fuqua is saying something about his take on the East Coast, which seems to be a general incomprehension of the vibe. What this film presents is three tired-ass storylines from better, previous crime films. The film is a gratuitous, unoriginal, high-budget clone that means nothing when all of its parts are summed up. Oh, there is a far-fetched plot point akin to the girl’s wallet in TD, but it comes off as some seriously weaksauce.

The three trivial plotlines are so absolutely stock that they really do hurt the senses. There is the DEEP COVER ripoff with Tango (Don Cheadle) morally buried in his undercover work. Tango’s close relationship with his dope-slanging crime homie, Casanova (Wesley Snipes), makes for a harsh internal conflict when the police powers that be decide that it’s time to set him up.

Then there is the good cop who has to make crooked decisions in order to survive as in TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA. Sal (Ethan Hawke) is scheming to get his growing family out of their too small house. The wood mold is affecting his wife Angela (Lili Taylor) who just happens to be pregnant with twins. Sal is actually at the point of considering farming one of his older children out to live with his sister for lack of room.

Lastly there is the shopworn “burned out and seven days away from retirement” character Eddie Dugan (Richard Gere). Dugan is a wake-up-with-a-shot-of-whiskey, Russian-roulette playing, separated-from-his-wife-while-banging-a-centerfold-status-hooker type of twaddle that we have all seen before. LETHAL WEAPON and both BAD LIEUTENANTS circle this sort of drain. Dugan has seven days left on the force and really doesn’t want to make a difference during this time, but by the third act, he is forced to.

The template laid over it all is a smoldering tension between the police and civilians over a civilian murder at the hands of a crooked cop (a plot element straight out of STRANGE DAYS). Brooklyn’s famous streets from THE FRENCH CONNECTION are about to get rocked. This template is locked in with an unfathomably huge barrage of standard cop film themes featuring Catholic angst, a high-end, coke-snorting whore, a sexy, ball breaking female Federal agent, a politic-heavy IA investigation, topless girls processing cocaine and cash in a drug den, and a double-digit body count. Add some over-the-top product placement featuring RIM’s Blackberry, Sony’s PLAYSTATION 3, BMW, AUDI and scores of other products, and the film is a fully-decaled, useless, corporate Humvee.

What can be said in favor of BROOKLYNS FINEST is that every headlining actor hits the proper notes and communicates all of the emotion required to present their specific roles perfectly. Also, the supporting cast which is populated by familiar faces from THE WIRE (Michael K. Williams, Hassan Johnson, and Isiah Whitlock Jr.), as well as Vincent D’Onofrio and the perpetually sweltering Ellen Barkin, all chew the scenery when onscreen.

The film’s editing, from personal conflict to personal conflict within the three stories, is well done. The film’s third act strikes a STAR WARS kind of note with all of the conflicts going down warfare style simultaneously and key and not so key characters getting clipped, smoked, choked, and knuckled down.

Fuqua knows his story, and he knows how to pull some juicy character depth out of his actors. While some of BROOKLYNS FINEST’s elements smack of exciting action film badassery (Sal going on a DEATHWISH murder-spree to get his paper), the grand bulk of it is mired in recycled, old-hat regurgitations of late night television cop-shows.

However, aesthetically, BROOKLYNS FINEST is not a mess by any means. This is a well written, super lubricated, by-the-books production. In truth, it is a great albeit longwinded time filler that will certainly entertain as it is supposed to, but that entertainment brings no new facets to the genre. An unfortunate aspect of it all is that BROOKLYNS FINEST might just herald a new run on unoriginality in cop films because of its pristine, glossy presentation. It looks and feels so familiar and good, but BROOKLYNS FINEST is unoriginal and vacuous at its core.

-Mediasaurus Rex

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