There is hardly a lack of cliche gangster action movies about selling drugs, dirty cops and "life in the hood", but this one was done quite tastefully. In a refreshingly original tale about three Brooklyn PD officers, director Antonine Fuqua (also director of "Shooter" and "Training Day") puts a new spin on what it means to be a good cop.
The story revolves around three police officers: Sal (played by Ethan Hawke), a struggling father of four who pockets money in drug busts to take care of his family, Eddie (Richard Gere), a good-intentioned cop who falls in love with a prostitute, and Clarence aka "Tango" (Don Cheadle from "Traitor"), an undercover officer who spent his earlier years hanging around the wrong crowd in the streets. Each officer has his own story, and though they do bump into each other occassionaly, each story progresses relatively independantly of the others.
Sal is struggling to get a new home for his family. His wife, who is pregangnt with twins, has bad asthma problems because of the mold in the walls of their current house. His kids also need more space for themselves - with twins coming along Sal fears he will have to send one of his kids to live at his sister's for lack of room in his current house. Sal has a great monologue in a poker room scene where he rants about the inadequecy of his paycheck and how, although it is the cops that put their lives on the line every day, the big city officials end up taking all the real money.
Eddie is about to retire. He has seen too much. Injustice seems to prevail all around him, yet even as a police officer, his ability to do anything about it is rather limited. He wakes up everyday, puts an empty gun in his mouth, and pulls the trigger.
Tango is trying to make detective by doing undercover work, but the work is dangerous and he doesn't get to see his wife. After she divorces him, things start to go further downhill. The drug dealers he is supposed to be getting evidence on are his old buddies - people he would have given his life for at one point. He is torn between the oppurtunity to advance his career, and his inability to betray his friends.
Personally speaking, I loved this movie. On the surface, it was a hardcore gangster action film with all the blood and cold-hearted killing you could ask for. Look a bit deeper though and you'll find a profound statement about the reality of good and bad.
The acting was excellent all around. Don Cheadle did an exceptionally good job of playing his character; I really felt his anger and his thirst for revenge. Part of this was definitely due to the directing and the writing. The script did an excellent job of guiding the audience through a series of emotions, and the directing only brought this out more so. Ethan Hawke and Richard Gere were not as brilliant as Cheadle, but still quite worthy of praise. Ellen Barkin who played the role of an "Agent Smith" also put on a truly spectacular performance; I genuinely hated her character by the end of the movie. Even Wesley Snipes did a good job.
The movie tries to fly in the face of everything we, as a society, consider right and wrong. It challenges our ideas of why crooked cops do what they do, and brings the world of drug dealers and snitches a bit closer to the audience. Basically the message this movie left me with was, "Things aren't always as simple as they seem." People often err on the side of oversimplification when it comes to things like drugs and violence.
Generally speaking, drug movies tend to fall under one of two categories: movies where the cops trying to take down the evil drug kingpin are the "good guys", and movies where the drug dealers are all glamor and glory and the cops are all dirty and paid off. This movie is different. It tries to show us that "good" and "bad" are simple things, but the humans that make "good" or "bad" decisions and the circumstances surrounding these decisions are hardly ever simple. In the end the movie does tend to get a bit predictable and altruistic, and I didn't like this, but any other ending would probably not have been as satisfying.
All in all, I enjoyed watching "Brooklyn's Finest" for a number of reasons. The acting, directing and writing were all very on point, the movies depiction of the world is a bit more realistic than most other movies in this genre, and the questions it raised about the morality of certain actions deemed unquestionably immoral by our society were intriguing, to say the least. A breath of fresh air in a world of cliche plots and superficiality, "Brooklyn's Finest" is definitely one to watch.