With Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke, Don Cheadle. Rated R for bloody violence throughout, strong sexuality, nudity, drug content and pervasive language. 140 minutes.
Director Antoine Fuqua returns to “Training Day” territory with BROOKLYN’S FINEST, a police melodrama that features not one but three cops at the end of their respective ropes. We follow their downwardly spiraling paths for more than two hours before fate brings them to the same place for alternately tragic or ironic endings. No details in that regard will be offered here, since it’s wondering how these stories will end that keeps you interested in the proceedings.
Richard Gere is Eddie, a cop who has clearly seen better days and is now counting down to retirement. If he’s no longer moved by the call to duty – to serve and protect – neither does he have much else going on in his life. Off-duty he drinks and sees his hooker “girlfriend.” In one scene, he waits in the hallway while she finishes servicing another client. It’s no surprise that the other cops have as little respect for him as he seems to have for himself.
Sal (Ethan Hawke) is a good cop in a bind. His wife (Lili Taylor) is being sickened by the mold in their old house, and they keep having more children. She’s pregnant again, and he desperately needs the money to make a down payment on a new house. As quickly becomes apparent, he’s not so picky about how he acquires the funds, and can only hope he doesn’t get caught.
Then there’s Tango (Don Cheadle) who has the least conventional story. He’s ruined his marriage by going undercover in prison to befriend big time hood Caz (Wesley Snipes). Now Caz is out, having saved Tango’s life behind bars, and Tango is being ordered to set him up if he wants his promotion and long promised desk job.
Each of them will find things getting worse and worse as they have to decide whether to do what is right or what is expedient. The payoffs, when they come, may surprise. The question is whether the three stories will hold your interest that long.
Gere dares to gives a performance of a guy who would rather be humiliated than face life alone, but seems to be heading in that direction anyway. The fact he’s far too good-looking for the role – where’s Dennis Franz when you need him? – detracts a bit, as in the scene where the hooker discreetly performs a sex act on him while he’s telling her about his problems. Hawke’s character is the least defined. Would a good Catholic who wouldn’t dream of using birth control do the other things we see him do here? Cheadle comes off best, especially in a scene when he’s gets orders from a higher-up (Ellen Barkin) to set up Caz on a phony charge and he has to decide where his loyalties are.
“Brooklyn’s Finest” isn’t dull, but it is contrived. Fuqua and writer Michael C. Martin have taken three half-baked ideas for a cop film and combined them instead of picking one and developing it further. Clearly, they were hoping that the whole would be more than the sum of the parts, but it doesn’t work that way. Call it arrested development.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Brookline.