This stuffed, intermittently intense crime drama looks at three unrelated cops ending up at the same fateful location after enduring vastly different career paths.
A formulaic, ironically-titled Brooklyn's Finest has the interlocking quality of a Crash and the grimness of a cop tale like Pride & Glory; it has a really interesting male ensemble that features Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke, and the welcome big-screen return of Wesley Snipes (remember New Jack City). This violent, if pointless tale tries to find its way through the law from disorder as Vincent D'Onofrio briefly starts it off with some choice words.
Given the nature of Antoine Fuqua's feel for the criminal underbelly and past work with Hawke on Training Day one expects gritty insight into the turmoil from emotional, personal, and professional aspects of life. Even from Hawke's beset Sal, there is a certain solace from reconciliation of the Catholic order.
Of these three problematic cops in the titular borough, Gere's Eddie is the least convincing as the profession is one with its daily demanding risks. The prolific actor of An Officer and A Gentleman, as well as tough, insightful policiers like Internal Affairs doesn't relate the depth his weathered, downbeat Eddie Dugan should - on the verge of retirement to a fishing cabin in Connecticut. In his final week the captain has him train a gung-ho rookie while he's lifted from his time with a hooker (Shannon Kane) with a heart of gold.
Undercover, street savvy Clarence "Tango" Butler, done with some ardor by Cheadle (who brought more ambiguity to Traitor) wants to find his way back to normalcy. His handler (Will Patton) and an FBI higher-up, Smith, a fine no-nonsense Ellen Barkin, need him to take his old prison chum Caz (a cool, supercilious Snipes) down, just out of prison and back with his brood. Just when Tango might shift his loyalties back to his fellow officers from his protective pal.
Hawke's narcotics officer Sal Procida is trying to improve the dilapidated life style of his asthmatic, pregnant-again wife Angela (Lili Taylor) and their big family in a small abode with wood mold issues that irritates Angela's condition. His way of dealing with scuzbags and drug dealers to mitigate his meagerness doesn't sit well with his colleague Ronny (a bewildered Brian F. O'Byrne).
Ultimately, the plotting by tyro scribe and Big Apple transit worker Michael C. Martin has all three changed by what happpens in the borough's 65th Precinct as the city's Operation Clean Up sets its sights on a notorious drug-infested (BK) public housing complex. It turns out from the denouement that one of these cops finds his way into an unexpected positive light than the others.
Yet, Fuqua doesn't have the finesse here to shake off too many of the cliches prevalent in a picture that may cause more than a few to look away from the screen with its sudden visceral surges. The desired gravity of the shifting and convocating individual stories don't unfold with the power of such an appropriately gloomy location which the production visually captures through contributions of lenser Patrick Murguia, editing by Barbara Tulliver.
Not to say that periodically Brooklyn's Finest underscores the peril and treacherousness of a precinct in an inexorable way, but just not as interesting and wrenching as has been depicted by the likes of Sidney Lumet and Curtis Hanson.