Brooklyn’s Finest | Film Review

The director of Training Day trades L.A.’s warmth and light for the cold darkness of New York City. Photography adjusts aptly as Brooklyn’s Finest is shot with absolute honesty and no artificial gloss. The rawness only strengthens the plot – much like The Dark Knight did, but with a much bigger budget. Antoine Fuqua is formulaic casting his directorial spells and he should be so – if he wants to establish himself as an identity director, Spike Jonze, Michael Mann, Scorscese, Terrance Malick and Terry Gilliam all have their little idiosyncrasies. He should fight for his.

Fuqua is a humanist in the sense that his movies make you reflect in the condition of society, society versus the individual and how slim the line between good and evil is. His tools of choice tend to be masterfully picked flawed protagonists whose lives fall under the category of heroes and villains simultaneously – anti-heroes if you will – leading his concoction of slowly brewed story-telling. Paired with a consistently fantastic choice of actors [even in the detail of the extras] and “keeping it real” scripts, these are Fuqua’s trademark weapons from Training Day to Tears Of The Sun to King Arthur – but it’s in the Crime genre he really excels and where we can find his best work.

Criticism that Brooklyn’s Finest is a copy of Training Day is beyond unfair; it’s dumb. They are alike in the whole spectrum of his directorial identity – but it stops there. If there’s any handicap in the movie at all, it is instead the fact that it’s slow-burner, focusing more on narrative and the hard choices people have to make in America right now amidst economic despair and mountainous responsibilities. The action was clearly sacrificed for the sake of dramatic poetry.

The focus on “the actions men make and its consequences” is told incredibly, spiralling Magnolia/Crash style making it three movies wrapped up in one thematically through police/crime scenarios. Intersecting only briefly, the intensity culminates placing the three protagonists in a life and death situation: Don Cheadle persues revenge, Ethan Hawke greed and Richard Gere the cowardly broken man, redemption.

The build-up towards the punch-line is the highlight and the novelty of this crime/good cop-bad cop action drama genre. Heat is a good comparison – but where it excels in action and cinematic awe it lacks in substance, precisely the contrary to Brooklyn’s Finest take your pick.

The genre has repeatedly overdosed but somehow always manages to amaze and make us run for a quick fix – and it always will when done in this superior fashion. Essentially for the same reason people still read the bible nowadays, the problems it tackles persist making their existence pertinent. In this genre from Serpico to Goodfellas, very few inspire you morally. This one tells the tale of the importance of decisions and how we are all fallible and noble given the circumstance.

Antoine is a classic film maker, clearly interested in truth rawness and the power of storytelling . This movie paints a real picture of America, particularly New York. It shows us Lady Liberty’s arm still holds the torch but it has a black eye and her dress has holes, contrary to the festival of futility and emptiness recent movies in this city have portrayed. I see Fuqua as a sort of potential ‘Black Scorsese’ – I only hope his love of genuine cinema doesn’t shadow commercial appeal to a point he is unable to reach the status he deserves. So far the balance is promising.

–Hugo Salvaterra

Brooklyn’s Finest is in UK cinemas now.


Release date: 9 June 2010
Certificate: 18
Running time: 132 mins