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Brooklyn's Finest

Clocking in at a bit over two hours, the cop drama Brooklyn’s Finest is never boring, which is not an inconsiderable achievement. But after the climactic carnage has ended, it’s hard to say what the point of it all has been. I realize it’s years too late to be asking that any new movie have a point to it, but the question is appropriate, given the portentousness of its script (explained by the fact that it was the first effort from former New York City transit worker writer Michael C. Martin, written while he was recovering from an injury).

The movie charts a week in the life of three cops in the dangerous Brownsville section of Brooklyn. (That the film was shot on location gives it a good deal of its flavor, despite what appears to be post-production fiddling to make everything look dingy.) Eddie (Richard Gere) is an alcoholic, third-rate beat cop counting the days until his retirement. Tango (Don Cheadle) has been working undercover for so long that he no longer remembers where his true allegiances are. And narcotics officer Sal (Ethan Hawke) is desperate for the money he needs to move out of the mold-infested house that is killing his pregnant wife.

Though they occasionally bump into each other, the three cops don’t know each other and their stories never come together, other than that they all conclude in the same location. The movie opens with a conversation about situational ethics, and goes on to muddy the issue of where the line lies between the good guys and the bad guys. But its three portraits of cops operating under impossible amounts of stress is more clichéd than insightful. Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) keeps us engrossed, and the actors all dig into their parts with relish, with the possible exception of Wesley Snipes, who underplays his role as a neighborhood drug lord. The movie takes itself seriously until it spins out of control with a three-part homage to the climax of Taxi Driver. Even with removal of the original ending that was shown at Sundance, you come away feeling bludgeoned by a smarmy exercise in pointless nihilism.

—m. faust

Watch the trailer for Brooklyn's Finest

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