Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Brooklyn’s Finest

Any legitimate ad for Antoine Fuqua’s latest film, Brooklyn’s Finest, is intent on stressing that this is the man who helmed 2001’s Oscar winner Training Day. I’m not too certain that that’s a good thing. Structural and thematic similarities could easily belie the fact that Brooklyn’s Finest is not a Training Day redux, even if the parallels are existent. Brooklyn’s Finest is concerned less with the battle between the good men and the bad men and more interested of the battle of good and evil within oneself. One the film’s most appealing elements is its lack of judgment (in the first three quarters of the film, at least). Gere’s retiring policeman, Hawke’s devoted family man and Cheadle’s undercover policeman. Of course none of the men are defined by the labels I give them; it’s in the creation of the nuanced characters – something the actors should be lauded for – that makes Brooklyn’s Finest a success.

Hawke’s Sal is a devoted family man, but this is merely one element of his tortured character. I’ve expressed my appreciation of Hawke time and time again, and he doesn’t disappoint here. Hawke is never content with acting in black and white always making for the shades of gray. I can’t refer to each of his performances as a superlative, but his work in Brooklyn’s Finest would be worthy of praise in a fair world. His moments at home (opposite Lili Taylor) are especially poignant. There’s no telling what will happen at the end of the year though, in fact I’m sure it would be forgotten. For the most part, the thin line between good and bad persists in the actions of Gere and Cheadle completing the unholy trinity. Cheadle has never been given a legitimate chance to impress since his impressive performance in Hotel Rwanda and I’ve never been impressed with the legitimacy of Gere’s classification as a good actor. However, both give excellent performances too. Gere’s is more of a slow burn, it’s not until the end we’re able to fully appreciate his technique but both men offer important shades to their characters.

What stops Brooklyn’s Finest from being truly excellent though is that as the film moves into its finale Martin seems content with doing away with  the cast (and the plot) in the most pedestrian of fashions. After having our three leading men in ruts the solution is unsatisfying and the audience is left there, waiting for an absolution that never comes. It robs the actors of the good work they’ve done so far and robs the many supporting actors giving good performances (Wesley Snipes, Will Paton, Lili Taylor, Jesse Williams, Brian O’Byrne) of any profundity. For a film that does so well in its first half, the film’s finale is done by the book. However, an array of good to excellent performances from the cast members makes this a worthy choice for viewing. Brooklyn’s Finest is not the greatest, but it’s a valiant effort from the production, and a brilliant effort from the actors.



M. Carter @ the Movies said...

"Internal Affairs" ruined me for movies where Richard Gere plays a cop. I always think he should play a villainous cop because he was SO MIND-BLOWINGLY GOOD as Dennis Peck. I might check out this one purely because of Don Cheadle, who (almost never) can do wrong.

Runs Like A Gay said...

I'm glad you liked it - it's one I'm definitely looking up when it comes in June.

I heard Ellen Barkin was tremendous in it, any thoughts?

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

m. carter well cheadle is good. i'd put hawke, him and hawke as the three best performances (male) i've seen thus far this year.

runs like a gay ellen is good, it's an oversight me not mentioning her. her role is slight, but particularly ferocious.

CrazyCris said...

I caught the trailer for this at the movies the other day... and was pretty much convinced I want to see it. Haven't caught Ethan Hawke onscreen in forever! Only question is when will it reach us here? :p