March 11, 2010


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Brooklyn’s Finest (R)
Big mooky accents and swear words cover this tale of cops on the beat like congealed mozz on an extra-cheese pizza in Brooklyn’s Finest, a showcase of some spectacular overacting.

Eddie (Richard Gere) is an unremarkable, keeps-his-head-down kind of cop who is neither liked nor respected by his fellow police officers and who seems to be contemplating ending his life just as he nears retirement. Sal (Ethan Hawke) is a crazy, sweaty, stubbly mess who is desperate to find the money to move his comically giant family out of their mold-filled house. Since raises aren’t forthcoming, he decides to give stealing drug money a shot. And then there’s Tango (Don Cheadle), an undercover cop whose long assignment with a group of drug dealers has started to give him a jaded view of law enforcement.

They all start the movie in their own bubbles — wonder if they’ll collide.

From the sad sad woe of poor Eddie (he actually falls in love with the prostitute he visits regularly) to the flamboyant racism tossed about by the federal lawman (Ellen Barkin) who shows up in the movie’s final third, there is nothing quiet or nuanced about Brooklyn’s Finest. It’s all bullets and f-words and cop talk that didn’t seem particularly revolutionary when you saw it on NYPD Blue some 15 years ago.

The exception to that is, of course, Don Cheadle, whose storyline is reminiscent of a movie he did a while back called Traitor. He isn’t exactly stretching here but he plays that character well — the basically good man being endangered and bedeviled by a big dumb law enforcement agency. He’s conflicted and has layers and is maybe not totally multi-dimensional but, you know, he has at least a good solid dimension and a half.

Brooklyn’s Finest is almost — though sadly not quite — campy enough to be a truly hilarious riff on the “gritty, morally-ambiguous crime fighter” genre. (It is, arguably, at least as funny as the recent Cop Out.) It offers all manner of well-worn stereotypes but nothing new to make its draggy saga truly exciting. C

Rated R for bloody violence throughout, strong sexuality, nudity, drug content and pervasive language. Directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by Michael C. Martin, Brooklyn’s Finest is two hours and 13 minutes long and distributed in wide release by Overture Films.