Three different officers in Brooklyn’s 65th precinct are dealing with their own desperation. We’re first introduced to Sal Procida, a detective who’s desperation to provide a good life to his family has led to his own corruption, committing murder and willing to steal drug money from various busts. We meet Clarence Butler, known on the street as Tango. He’s a deep cover operative who’s infiltration of street gang life is permeating his own. He’s desperate to get his own life back even though it may come at the cost of the betrayal of a lifelong friend. And we meet Eddie Dugan, a beat cop who’s ready to retire after 22 years on the force. He’s disillusioned from his long experience on the force, with younger officers not giving him any respect and calling him a burnout. In his final days, he’s desperate for some form of respect and finding himself again.
That’s the premise to director Antoine Fuqua’s latest movie, Brooklyn’s Finest. Fuqua is best known for his previous movie of police corruption, Training Day, a terrific film that I think actually gets a little edged out by Brooklyn’s Finest.
Fuqua is real adept at weaving together these three stories. He gives you enough on each character and then knows when to move on to his next. You never really feel like he’s getting lost in these three stories. For the first part of the film, there’s a more leisured pace to seeing their stories unfold, but then at some key points of action, he’ll pick up the pace with quicker cuts to each of the three stories. The flow feels very nice.
It’s for a mature audience to be sure, and not just because of it’s dealings with sex and violence in the film. These characters are really well-drawn, and while their surface stories might give off singular motivations, there’s more to each of these men than just that and it’s there on the screen thanks to some really nice performances.
Ethan Hawke plays Sal, Don Cheadle plays Tango and Richard Gere plays Eddie and all three deliver some exceptional work here. I particularly found myself drawn to Gere and Eddie Dugan’s story the most. Gere’s performance really does feel lived-in and like that of a man who’s withdrawn himself because of things that he’s experienced over time. That doesn’t slight what either Hawke or Cheadle does here. I like how Hawke plays his corruption here which is apart from how it might be conventionally portrayed, he’s riddled with guilt over what he’s done and has an obvious hard time dealing with it. Cheadle’s a powder keg waiting to explode, especially when dealing with his superiors and when it does happen, it’s actually pretty harrowing in it’s own right.
There’s a lot of good support here as well. It’s very nice to see Wesley Snipes in something like this. Snipes plays Cas, Tango’s friend who’s been away to jail and is just now released and getting back into the life. though he doesn’t have as much time on the screen as the three leads, Snipes still does really well here and even with this part, it still feels multi-faceted. Will Patton and Ellen Barkin play Tango’s superiors. Patton is solid, this is the sort of character thing that we’re used to from him. Barkin is a big surprise though and it’s one of the more vicious performances that I’ve seen her do. I can’t tell you how long that it’s been that I’ve seen Lili Taylor in a movie, but it was certainly nice to see her here as Sal’s wife, and while it’s not a flashy performance you can see by her work who’s the rock in this relationship. Brían F. O’Byrne plays one of Sal’s team, who’s basically Sal’s clarity even though Sal doesn’t know it. Shannon Kane plays Chantal, a hooker that Eddie Dugan sees. Dugan thinks she could be one way of him finding something for himself in the world, and she’s certainly adept at giving him that further illusion.
Brooklyn’s Finest is really a terrific movie. The three stories are all handled very well, really making you involved with their characters and the way they come together in the end feels logical, though there is some coincidence to it, it still feels right. For me, this one is one of those that already I’ll have to look back on at the end of the year as one of the best films of 2010. Highly recommended.