Dirty cop movies don't generally win Oscars, even for the best actors or directors. Antoine Fuqua's Training Day was nominated for two and won one for lead Denzel Washington. But his follow up is an absurdly long flick that snores with apathy.
Brooklyn's Finest follows three cops through a week in their supposedly tumultuous lives. Eddie (Richard Gere) is old and grouchy, Tango (Don Cheadle) is deep undercover and tormented, and Sal (Ethan Hawke) is amassing money from busts to put his family up in a nice, mold-free house. As a character drama, it unfortunately, rarely gives us a reason to care about these men. We're introduced to Eddie as he swills booze, puts the barrel of his service piece in his mouth, then shrugs and goes off to work -- we have no choice but to take the same laissez-faire attitude toward him, especially when he proves to be a bland curmudgeon. We spend more of the film with Tango, a cop posing as a dealer. Yet still, director Antoine Fuqua can't scare up any fear for his danger, nor can he build misguided loyalty towards Tango's two-dimensional gangsta mates. We're left only with bland thug dialogue, whining, and watching Cheadle stare at people with his mouth hanging open.
Right out of the gates, Michael C. Martin's script treads water, aimlessly throwing in minor characters and quirky details. (Sal's friend is racist! Eddie's new partner is naively idealistic!) Hawke's Sal is the most interesting and fleshed out of the main three. His bourgeoisie desperation is made clear, and there's even moments of hope. In one scene, an enraged Sal -- intent on a future mortgage payment -- chases what he thinks is a wealthy perp only to find he's carrying no cash. He berates the man for simply holding a package of diapers. Sal's evidently pretty competitive in the "caring for the family" department. It's a nice, subtle touch that leaves us wondering whether the original film was simply Sal's story, here padded with Crash subplot rejects. But this good will can't outlast a script that's nothing more than a series of vignettes about cops having a lousy time of things.
Fuqua's visual flare is still strong. The movie opens in a dark car, lit only by the moon and streetlamps -- it's subtle, natural and stunning. Another scene takes place in a red-hued apartment, just outside a window, as a woman passionately copulates with Eddie. But this is all just boasting and visual distraction, as the heat turns trite. She's a hooker, Eddie snorts blow and opens up to her about his life, then gets the world's longest blow job. Drugs and whores haven't been shocking since Harvey Keitel smoked crack and stumbled naked around a drug den in the original Bad Lieutenant. Brooklyn's Finest is really just a graceless mish-mash rehash of other cop films, and Martin's constant soliloquies and obvious exposition have nothing on Keitel's metronomic wang-waggling silent through his freebase two-step.
The image quality on the blu-ray is mostly fantastic. In the aforementioned opening scene, the detail is pristine even in a dim car. Darker objects throughout the film do seem a bit murky -- in one contrast-y card game scene, skin tones look strangely disparate, and background detail is terribly blurry -- but overall the moments where Fuqua clearly wants a response look incredible, and the rest aren't distracting.
Extra material is in abundance. "Conflict & Chaos: The Life of a New York Cop" discusses the pressures of a cop, laughable here because the only obvious pressure in Brooklyn's Finest is that Sal's wife is sick from mold creeping behind his walls. Another featurette is -- seriously -- called "Boyz in the Real Hood," wherein the actors portraying ridiculous gangsta stereotypes (replete with outdated, self-conscious lingo) discuss real life thug pressure. And then there's a featurette on screenwriter Martin, in which a lot is made about his being a tollbooth worker who wrote the script while on duty. The snippets don't show much insight in to the production; they just show how happy everyone was to be involved.
If you want to see the pressures of a police office, watch "Jail" or "The Police Women of..." series on TLC. If you want to see a tense, stakes-heavy dirty cop movie, watch Fuqua's Training Day. If you just want to watch three directionless characters in uniform, by all means grab a copy of Brooklyn's Finest.