Movie Reviews - 05/03

BROOKLYN'S FINEST (Overture Films)

By Harvey Karten - A couple of months ago, one Corneliu Promboiu came out with a cop picture that had no music except for a song that one character listens to, no cars at all to speak of, no bullets or explosions, no profanity, and no jump-cuts, manic editing, or even a mild fight or two. In fact some scenes find photographer Marius Panduru training his lenses on such un-cinematic scenes as a secretary pecking away for several minutes at the keyboard of a stone-age computer in a drab police station or, more significant, on a police officer staking out a scene at a high school in a hayseed town for days, even giving the moviegoer the impression that the scene is being taken in real time. The film, Romania's candidate for our Oscar competition, is supposed to reveal some things about corruption in Romania's society, and is proudly labeled 'art.'

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Overture Films
Reviewed for Arizona Reporter by Harvey Karten
Grade: B-
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Written By: Michael C. Martin
Cast: Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes, Jesse Williams, Lili Taylor, Ellen Barkin, Will Patton, Brian F. O'Byrne, Vincent D‘Onofrio
Screened at: Broadway, NYC, 2/25/10
Opens: March 5, 2010

It's no wonder Europeans as well as Americans go for our police movies. We love profanity, gunplay, violence, manic editing, jump-cuts, and car chases. Some of us could not care less if logic took a vacation. That's where 'Brooklyn's Finest' comes into the picture. Antoine Fuqua, best known here for his 'Training Day,' which afforded us a look at an experienced cop played by Denzel Washington taking a rookie cop played by Ethan Hawke out on a run of a tough neighborhood in L.A. In one scene, the likes of which show up again in 'Brooklyn's Finest,' the rookie sees a girl about to be raped, wants to jump out and make an arrest, but is told by the experienced policeman to forget it.

Never mind that 'Brooklyn's Finest' looks like 'Training Day,' because Americans and the rest of the world can't get enough cop movies, even after taking in a surfeit of TV's 'CSI''s, 'Law and Order,' and 'Cold Case.' There are visceral thrills in 'Brooklyn's Finest,' and Fuqua, who grew up in a tough Pittsburgh nabe, knows whereof he speaks. Yes, logic takes a vacation (more likely in Hawaii than in Brooklyn's tough Brownsville vicinity), the plot goes over the top, particularly as cops fire at bad guys and in one case a good guy as though they do not have to account for every bullet, and one rogue cop goes bananas in the apartment of a drug dealer, looking for money everywhere-in the washing machine, the freezer, the cabinets-without worrying about the fingerprints he's leaving.

But while this film may not be targeted toward lovers of 'Valentine's Day,' it provides the excitement that even we surfeited critics find easy to take, given the macho performances of Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes, and Don Cheadle, all balanced by the classy show put together by a police officer played by Richard Gere.

Everybody here wants something. All the action is directed toward getting it. I'll go way out on a limb and suggest that the something is money, maybe also authority. The most evil character is not a hoodlum: you expect the hoods to act the way they day. That person is Sal, played by Ethan Hawke, using his signature facial tics and no-holds-barred actions all in the interest of gaining a down payment on a larger house to suit his wife, Angela (Lily Taylor) who is sick with asthma because of the mold in the walls of his run-down digs, and for three children plus a pair of twins about to be introduced to the world. He doesn't like the idea that cops having a starting pay of $20,000 which made me think that the movie takes place in 1970 when in fact it's in 2009. He'll kill even his fellows on the beat, other cops who steal from the drug pushers, not to rid the world of evil but to intercept the money. Tango (Don Cheadle) is an undercover officer who wants to become a detective, but to get that promotion, all he has to do according to his mentor, Lt. Bill Hobarts (Will Patton), is to set up his old pal, Caz (Wesley Snipes), for a bust.

You've got a couple of good guys, but they finish last. Ronny Rosario (Brian F. O'Byrne) tries to restrain his partner Sal after discovering what the guy is ready to do to get that down payment, but you can guess at how successful he is. And there's no way Fuqua is going to make Richard Gere's character a baddie. Gere's Eddie Dugan is seven days from retirement after 23 years on the force, but he's separated from his wife, he's miserable (we know this because he takes a drink right after waking up from a nightmare), he's not on the take, but then he does not have much of a commendable record with the force. He's also fond of a hooker and seems willing even to marry her, but she doesn't want to be tied down (so to speak).

Maybe you can see something like this on TV. On the big screen, with Marcelo Zarvos's music pumping up the adrenaline, with Patrick Murguia's lenses on the beat on location in the Van Dyke housing project in Brownsville, Brooklyn (one wonders how they were able to film this on location in project that houses 15,000 people), 'Brooklyn's Finest,' with Michael C. Martin's taut script in its favor, will find a somewhat larger audience than Corneliu Promboiu's 'Police Adjective.' Even in Romania.

BROOKLYN'S FINEST (Overture Films)
Rated R. 133 minutes. © 2010 by Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online

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