At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Brooklyn’s Finest “2010”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Crime Drama/ Stars: Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes, Vincent D’Onofrio, Brían F. O’Byrne, Will Patton, Michael Kenneth Williams, Lili Taylor, Shannon Kane, Ellen Barkin, Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Wass Stevens, Armando Riesco, Wade Allain-Marcus, Logan Marshall Green, Jesse Williams, Hassan Iniko Johnson, Jas Anderson, Raquel Castro, Tobias Truvillion/ Runtime: 132 minutes

I think it is safe to say that if you, the reader wanted to make a list that revolved around who you thought some of the more under-appreciated film helmers operating in the world of movie magic today were, I would be very surprised if the name of Antoine Fuqua did not at any point in time find itself written down and placed upon that list. Indeed I say this because I feel that Fuqua’s list of films all manage to do a wonderful job of operating in an intriguing happy medium between taut and riveting action beats and phenomenally deep thematic ingredients that when combined manage to showcase that Fuqua has a truly dynamic talent for creating films that are truly unlike a lot of others in the world of film. Indeed whereas, and in all fairness, a film like 2007’s Shooter is one that does choose to utilize more in the way of action than pathos, I do feel that there is at least a trinity of films that Fuqua has made in the form of Tears of the Sun from 2003, Training Day from 2001, and the film I am reviewing for you all today 2010’s Brooklyn’s Finest are films that manage to pull off that terrific balancing act, but just as importantly manage to be riveting examples of this unique film helmer’s gift for putting a purpose into any violence he chooses to showcase on screen and construct films that manage to stay with you for quite a while following the screen going to black and the credits beginning to roll. As for the movie I am reviewing today, it should be noted that while Brooklyn’s Finest is most certainly not the best film that Fuqua has ever delivered to the silver screen, an honor and distinction that I feel will always (and rightfully so) go to his 2001 crime drama Training Day, this is also a film that is one of the more subdued yet also intriguing films that Fuqua has ever made. Indeed, much in the same vein as Training Day, Brooklyn’s Finest is a riveting look about how flawed those who swear to keep us safe truly can become as well as the vast consequences of their actions. Thus I guess it’s a good thing it wound up in Fuqua’s hands because thanks to his wonderful directing talents as well as the riveting work by the film’s cast in bringing their complicated yet three-dimensional characters to life in a way that is terrifically organic, Brooklyn’s Finest is further proof of that under-the-radar magic like a helmer like Fuqua can truly bring to a film that in lesser hands would’ve been mehhh at best and straight to video at worst.

The plot is as follows: Within the world of the NYPD’s 65th Precinct, there is an area with high amounts of criminality, but also where the boundaries between legal and illegal often find themselves blurred by the blood that drenches the streets seemingly daily. To that end, this film tells the tale of a trinity of cops who work on these streets and who each have their own personal dilemmas that have not only altered how they see their distinct beat to say nothing of their employer, but how they see themselves as well. The first of these cops is a 2+ decade member of the force by the name of Eddie who, despite being a week from retiring, is also borderline suicidal due to all his time on the force sapping him of his will to life. Complicating matters for him ever further is the fact that although the majority of his career has been a misfire, he is still appointed to show some rookies the ropes before he walks off into the proverbial sunset. Then there is Tango who, as of late, is an undercover operative whose very loyalty is being placed under scrutiny since his time with the city’s criminals, but especially in the inner depths of a drug empire run by a man named Caz has actually made him start to rethink what side he is on. Finally we are introduced to a man by the name of Sal who, despite being a good husband and father, is struggling to make it in life. To that end, we see that he has start swiping money from drug busts in order to aid him in paying the bills and also move his family to a new house for the sake of his wife’s health and their ever-expanding brood. Thus with their department already rife with anxiety and the beat beginning to turn on the people who have promised to keep them safe, each of these men must find the kind of man they really are through the chaos and restlessness surrounding them whilst also hoping they’re able to just get through the proverbial one more day…

Now although Brooklyn’s Finest is most certainly not a film that is going to completely alter how the world of movie magic does things, it is also a film that does fare a lot better than the vast majority of the tragically subpar-average fare that takes hold of the world of movie magic quite often nowadays. I say that because this movie is a thematically brilliant, but despair-riddled and dark from a visual perspective slice of cinematic pie that manages to encompass all that is intriguing about the subgenre of the crime drama world of movie magic known simply as “When Cops Go Bad”. Indeed here is a film which manages to ensnare both a bleakness and internal agony that seldom other films like this can say they were able to whilst also regaling us with 3 riveting narratives which are made even better by some truly wonderful work in the film’s acting department. Indeed it is the riveting performances in this film which do the biggest lifting in making this film as riveting as it turns out to be. To that end, it should be noted that I felt that Ethan Hawke’s performance in this is perhaps the film’s highlight. Indeed his character in this could easily be seen as Jake Hoyt from Training Day if he actually went down the road that Alonzo had in mind for him. By that I mean Sal in this is a great cop, but who is torn between his conscience and the illegal activities he is involved in on the side to help support his family. Indeed Hawke’s arc in this is one which is both quite unnerving yet also riveting and one that will leave you both understanding and spiteful of his character, but honestly that’s just a testament to both the script and especially the effort Hawke makes in bringing this character to life. Yet Hawke isn’t alone in his attempts to give this movie a truly gripping and arresting, pun intended, performance to be able to work with. Indeed I say that because we also in this film get terrific work from Richard Gere who brings a wonderful sense of quiet resignation in his role of Eddie, Don Cheadle who brings a much-needed electric edge to the role of Tango, and even Wesley Snipes who, in a rare theatrical release, brings just the right amount of magnetic energy to his co-starring role of drug lord Caz. Suffice it to say then that this is a film which is done very well, but through the work done by the thespians in front of the camera manages to become something truly special.

Now even though Brooklyn’s Finest is a film that finds itself blessed with both terrific characterization and absolutely fantastic performances from a top-notch cast, the film also manages to soar as a riveting and bleak inside look at a world that is slowly being pulled apart due to its separation of loyalty to both the oath these guys took as an officer of law and to their own individual beliefs and wants. Indeed even though this film’s trinity of main characters all swore to keep the public safe and to keep the peace, they each have been victimized in some way by their chosen career and as a result each one’s life has been shattered due to their ties to law enforcement. Indeed for Eddie, his over 2 decades on the force has all but literally sapped him of his will to live, for Tango that razor-thin line between being a cop and being a criminal has not only gotten fuzzy, but disappeared entirely, and for Sal it’s the temptation that corruption can bring in the form of making life easier that is proving way too much to handle. Suffice it to say then that, in my opinion at least, I do not look at it as mere coincidence that, when looking back at some of the promo material that came out with this film, they almost look like a chainsaw blade. I say that because to me this is a movie which undoubtedly revolves around a location and a system that has literally ripped up several lives who, perhaps at one time or another, were devoted to serving the public to the best of their ability. Thus it is that back and forth between what is moral and immoral, right and wrong, and just and unjust that is what really comes to the forefront to define this film; indeed this is a narrative that revolves not only around this idea of “righter” and “wronger”, but also of how even in a world that is just as perilous, unjust, crime-ridden, and saddening as the one we all live in, even those who have vowed to combat and annihilate the most perilous and destructive aspects of it can’t fully get away from those things they try to fight every single day.

All in all and at the end of the day, it is safe to say that Brooklyn’s Finest is a engaging from a thematic perspective yet at the same time quite soul crushing, at least from a pathos perspective, slice of cinematic pie about the grim and bleak reality that is the day to day life of an unholy trinity of cops that are members of the NYPD that have all in their own way has seen firsthand the excitement of the job slowly, but surely ebbed out of existence and their own individual struggles begin to unravel them all whilst working out of the deadly 65th precinct. Suffice it to say then that iconic film helmer Antoine Fuqua yet again manages to do a truly wonderful job at being able hunt down and locate a riveting happy medium between engaging action beats and attention-grabbing pathos though the fact that this film of his from 2010 is also one which is backed up beautifully by a phenomenal group of thespians all managing to brilliantly portray parts that are both extremely very well-written and quite tasking to bring this vividly to life as well as a narrative that is equal parts riveting yet bleak in the best way possible most certainly doesn’t hurt the film either. On a scale of 1-5 I give Brooklyn’s Finest “2010” a solid 3.5 out of 5.