"Brooklyn's Finest" tells the story of three (Brooklyn) cops of varying importance and the way in which their screwed up lives intersect. Think "Crash" plus "Training Day" minus "significance." Richard Gere is a washed up patrol cop on the brink of retirement who never does anything that calls for extra effort or paper work. Don Cheadle is so deep undercover that the line between cover and reality has become blurred. And Ethan Hawke is a narcotics officer whose family is quickly dipping below the poverty line. All three are close to the breaking point in their own way as the tensions of the city take them through shoot outs, crooked take downs, and kidnappings. Director Antoine Fuqua puts together a slow moving, worthlessly complex, grim plot that none of his characters seem capable of properly navigating. And then it all mercifully ends.
Generally speaking, I'm a fan of Fuqua's work. "Training Day" is one of the best cop movies I've ever seen, complete with an iconic performance by Denzel Washington. "Tears of the Sun" is far from great but I find it to be an above average war movie that tackles tough content with relative realism. And "Shooter" is one of my all time favorite "guilty pleasure" movies and one that I find myself watching more times than I'd like to admit. Fuqua displays an understanding of his subject matter that few directors do.
"Brooklyn's Finest" is an extreme departure from Fuqua's recent catalog. The setup takes forever to get settled in, the characters are wholly unlikeable, and the connections between these unlikeable characters are questionable at best. Characters that are supposed to represent a gritty, authentic take on crooked cops in a corrupt city come across as cliche caricatures instead. In addition, the story is as common as they come. Gere is a burn out who spends all his money on prostitutes and booze, Cheadle can't bring himself to turn in his new bad-guy buddies, Hawke is killing and stealing to support his family and blah blah blah. The whole of "Finest" plays out like a bad episode of "NYPD Blue" only with more cursing and less Dennis Franz-related nudity (at least it has that going for it). When finding it hard to phrase how I feel about a movie, I like to pull inspiration from the great scholarly works such as "Billy Madison." In the words of Billy's principal, "At no point in your rambling...were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought." (Perhaps the classic "...sound and fury, signifying nothing" would seem more sophisticated but I just like "Billy Madison", okay?) That's how I felt about "Finest." It strives to matter but it simply doesn't, instead reveling for two hours in the Pointless Abyss, leaving the semi-resurrection of Wesley Snipes as its only legacy.