Wednesday, 11 July 2012
(Antoine Fuqua, 2010) There are three intertwined story threads in Brooklyn's Finest, each of them seemingly attempting to pack in more cliches than the others. Each focuses on a different cop. There is the ageing beat cop Duggan (Richard Gere), burnt out and cynical and with no life beyond the job, with only seven days to retirement. Then there's the Vice Detective Sal (Ethan Hawke), bowed beneath the financial responsibility of raising a family to the extent that he begins to steal money from drug busts. And finally there's Tango (Don Cheadle), so deep undercover with a drug gang that his old life has disintegrated and he has begun to doubt which side he's on. These three characters are set on a collision course, of course, but not before the plot has forced them through some tortuous scenes familiar from a dozen cop movies and tv shows. There are plenty of double-crosses, macho standoffs, shootouts in drug nests, nagging wives and hollow cops staring out of windows, alongside all the gangsta posturing and reactionary New York Cop braggadocio. Duggan's only friend is a prostitute he frequents and has fallen in love with. Sal is increasingly frenzied and unpredictable in his desperation. Tango has to get off of undercover before it destroys him, but his loyalty to a gang lord who has saved his life (Wesley Snipes) is a conflict for him. All of this familiar genre storytelling can only end one way - in gunplay. This is a story only violence and death can resolve, and sure enough there are bullets and some major characters don't make it. It seems to take the position that being a cop in a city with as much moral compromise as New York - or at least Brooklyn - is an impossible job, and one that destroys any who attempt to do it, but its approach is a tad too pulpy and a little too generic to say anything interesting about the issues it raises. Instead it settles for obliterating them with gunfire. What makes it watchable - to the reasonable extent that it is - are the performances. The dialogue in the script is serviceable, with a few compelling speeches, but the three leads each give it a dose of intensity and charisma that jolts it along. Hawke has the showiest part, all sweaty angst, and Cheadle is a powerful presence, but Gere is perhaps the standout, exuding a moral weariness and armouring himself with a jaded detachment which is only given more potency by the movie star aura he still possesses. He is slightly mannered , but his storyline is the least well-assimilated here, but that may help it and him. The supporting cast is classy, filled with alumni from The Wire alongside the likes of great character players like Ellen Barkin, Will Patton, Vincent D'Onofrio and Lili Taylor - none of them given much to do - but Fuqua makes it all look a bit too slick, all shining surfaces and pretty lights. He has directed enough action films to know how to make an action scene pop, but the kind of grit and complexity the world the portrays here demands is absent in his direction of this story, and that's a shame.