Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Brooklyn's Finest

"I should've been a Fireman. "

One night in Brooklyn, three cops who've never met come to a point of no return.

Antoine Fuqua is one of those director's whose movies have made it much farther than his name in the general populace (Read: people who don't devote large percentages of their money and free-time to movies). Chances are even if you've never heard of him, you've seen one of his movies. Those his better known titles include: Tears of the Sun, The Replacement Killers, King Aurthur, and The Shooter, the one that gained the most notoriety was Training Day, in which Denzel Washington gave an Oscar winning (and therefore history making) performance. Fuqua's newest title continues his fixation on the confliction of his characters- much to the betterment of the film.

Michael C. Martin's impressive debut as a feature film scribe follows three police officers as their lives and careers lead them to the same place on the same night. What's interesting about this story is not that each officer is being pushed and slowly approaching the edge, it's that going over the edge means completely different things for each man. As the stories progress, we learn what those things are, and while we definitely don't come to think of any of them as heroes- for two it's just as hard to hate them out right, no matter how far they do or don't go.

That this is going to be an abrasive, violent ride is something Fuqua has no interest in hiding, demonstrating as much within a few scenes. This is probably even more of a deliberate point then I originally thought in the theater, as I remember that he's received criticism for being far to "gentle" in the past. Brooklyn's Finest seems to be his defiance, which is not always a good thing. I'm no stranger to a little cinema carnage, but apparently this movie takes place in an alter reality where no matter where your shot blood gurgles out of your mouth.

In terms of performance there are no terrible miss steps. Richard Gere struggles a bit out of the gate before settling into yet another good performance while Ethan Hawke fights the good fight and avoids falling into the obvious trap of playing his character as just another bad-man. In the past decade Don Cheadle has become one of those actors that you get tired of complimenting, and though he does well in Brooklyn's Finest, I think I liked this character better when he played him in Traitor. As for Wesley Snipes... this is an actor I grew watching as action anti-heroes, but it's been a long time since I've seen him do anything remarkable.

There are very few punches pulled as we follow our three officers in and out of there homes, workplaces, and crime scenes. What they see is what we see, no matter how gruesome or personal. They often take up entire frames themselves, and though their histories are hinted at or touched on there are no flash backs to mull over. The camera work and editing serve as constant reminders that these , here and now, are the story. This is certainly not a sweeping epic, nor should it be. "These are days in the lives of..." and the story is much more accessible as such.

Unfortunately for all it's focus, I found myself often pulled out of scenes by the scoring. As much as one may love Jay-Z, I think most can admit that the song from the previews would have been out of place in the actual film- the used in it's stead is no better. It's tone doesn't mesh. This is a problem only underscored by a lot of oddly hammy musical cues. I caught myself thinking things like 'oh, he's about to say something deep' as the music swelled through pregnant pauses. That this is something I'd notice in the theater the first time I saw the film is a bad sign. Fuqua may have ditched his "gentleness" for this venture, but it seems his subtlety was clinging to it when it fell.

It's a cop movie. I don't think there's anyway to reinvent such a done-to-death genre, but Brooklyn's Finest certainly brings the appearance of freshness to the mix. Whether or not it's really there is debatable, but that one can be fooled for even a little while is telling of the skill that went into it. It's flaws are rarely jarring, though overall enough to keep it from being spectacular. As I've fell a bit behind on my reviews last week, I imagine that anyone who's going to see it already has. I say it's worth checking out, but not at the cost of any other movie you might be waiting for.
(My Apologies for forgetting!)
Reel Deal Recommends:
Traitor: For another performance full of confliction from Don Cheadle.
The Mothman Prophecies: Not enough people saw this thriller with Richard Gere.
Gattacca: Ethan Hawke in one of my favorite of his roles.

No comments: