July 7, 2010
Brooklyn’s Finest (2009) was seen as a comeback of sorts for Wesley Snipes who had been wandering the wilderness of direct-to-video fare and had not enjoyed a serious theatrical release since Blade: Trinity (2004). Unfortunately, this film wasn’t the massive commercial success he was hoping for but at the very least it was a step in the right direction. For director Antoine Fuqua, Brooklyn’s Finest was a return to familiar material as he had tackled police corruption in Los Angeles with Training Day (2001). This new film would be the east coast companion piece as he took on the mean streets of New York City. There have been all kinds of films about cops in that city, chief among them several by Sidney Lumet whose shadow looms large over Brooklyn’s Finest and so Fuqua certainly had his work cut out for him.
The film’s story follows three very different cops who work in and around the notorious BK house projects – 18 buildings with 50,000 residents. It is a drug-ridden hotbed for crime, not to mention the highest crime area in the city. Eddie (Gere) is a veteran cop only seven days from retirement. His superior assigns him a rookie that he is supposed to show around BK. Eddie is an alcoholic at the end of his rope and just wants to get out after 22 years of service. Sal (Hawke) is a desperate cop that takes money from drug busts in order to help pay for a house for his family – a pregnant wife and several kids. Tango (Cheadle) is working undercover and trying to set up a major drug bust. He’s in real danger of losing himself in his cover story and wants his superior (Patton) to get him out. Casanova Phillips (Snipes) has just gotten out of prison after an eight year stint and hooks up with Tango, his loyal buddy from way back, and who, incidentally, has been ordered to bring his friend down. All three men are walking a fine line in a very dangerous environment.
All three cops share a very jaded worldview but this is hardly surprising considering that they see humanity at its worst on a daily basis. Brooklyn’s Finest raises some legitimate concerns that cops have about the job. They are paid lousy wages to risk life and limb. Is it any wonder that some of them are on the take? Some cops have been on the job too long and have seen too much and this results in a cynical view on life.
As a result, Brooklyn’s Finest doesn’t exactly paint the prettiest picture of the problems that plague New York City. In fact, it looks pretty hopeless. The cops do everything they can but it seems like a futile battle. While the film’s story is nothing that we haven’t seen before, it is anchored by very strong performances by Cheadle, Gere, Hawke, and Snipes. Gere and Hawke are especially strong as they essentially play the polar opposite of the cop characters they portrayed in Internal Affairs (1990) and Training Day, respectively. For Snipes, it is a return to form and proof that he is still an excellent actor hungry for good material. Let’s hope that this film leads to more substantial roles in high profile projects like this one for the actor.
“Chaos and Conflict: The Life of a New York Cop” takes a look at the genesis of the film. Ethan Hawke rode around with actual cops while researching for his role. Richard Gere looked at the film as a Shakespearean drama. Director Antoine Fuqua was thrilled to have Wesley Snipes in the film and to have him in scenes together with Don Cheadle. Fuqua says that the film is about the pressures cops are under every day.
“Boyz N the Real Hood” examines shooting the film on location in Brooklyn. Fuqua says that the studio originally wanted him to shoot it in Detroit but he insisted it on shooting in New York City and in the actual projects where it is set. The production used a lot of locals as extras.
“An Eye for Detail: Director Featurette” features the cast and crew praising Fuqua’s ability, his passion and being someone who knows what he wants. The actors also appreciated his willingness to let them improvise and collaborate with him.
“From the MTA to the WGA: Writer Featurette” takes a look at the film’s screenwriter Michael Martin. Before this film, he worked for the transit authority on the subway. Originally, Fuqua did not want to do another cop film after Training Day, but loved Martin’s script. The writer is understandably pretty happy how things turned out as he got to see his script brought to life by all these well-known actors.
Also included are 31 minutes of deleted scenes. We see the full scene of what was only shown partially in the film in a flashback. There is more footage of Tango and Casanova planning for the future. We also see more of Sal’s family life. There is a slightly longer version of the ending where we the after effects of the climactic showdown between the three main characters.
There is a theatrical trailer.
Finally, there is an audio commentary by director Antoine Fuqua. He starts talking about how the Book of Job from the Bible influenced the staging and look of the opening scene with Sal. He describes Eddie as a ghost that “floats through life.” Fuqua does a fine job analyzing his film and explains how his style – camerawork, framing, etc. – informed the themes and provided insight into the characters.