Brooklyn’s Finest marks Antoine Fuqua’s return to the mean streets.
Though the trailer had a distinctive Training Day feel to it, the only real similarity here is that it stars Ethan Hawke.
The 3-strand plot follows three cops whose interpretations of justice and fairness are scattered, jaded, and deeply personal: street patrol Eddie (Gere) has only 7 days until retirement, drug raid specialist Sal (Hawke) scavenges for drug money, and Tango (Cheadle) is an undercover ex-con.
Though their professional roles create a feedback loop, there are no overarching attempts to link the characters in the mode of Crash. Rather the stories play out as three different films, intercut in what feels like real time. Only at cursory moments do they cross paths.
Cheadle plays against type, proving that he can roll with grittier characterisations, though his performance is more understated than those of his nefarious contemporaries. Straddling the line between renegade and cop brings turbulence when he is assigned the task of framing his best friend and former gang buddy.
Though Tango is not the most interesting character in his group, he far outshines Gere’s Eddie, a jaded alcoholic officer. After 22 years on the force the only respect he gains is from the new kids, and even they will cross him. Lonely, cynical and hardened, he has not much to offer. Pathetic and generally unsympathetic, he is by far the dullest part of the film.
Most interesting is Sal, Hawke’s family man, who has 5 kids and another on the way. In the opening scene we find him in a car, trading stories with a man whom he kills for a wad of cash. The man in the car tells him that a man will pay any price to save his own life. Sal, we soon learn, will do anything for his family. Tortured and praying for help over forgiveness, his moral compass points due “family” and he has no qualms about taking lives for what is rightfully theirs. An excellent performance from Hawke.
Brooklyn’s Finest is the type of film Fuqua does best. Towards the end, though, the connection that draws all three cops into the same building is complicated and requires a little too much exposition.
Intense without pretence, but ultimately forgettable.
Brooklyn’s Finest is released in the UK on Wednesday 9th June.