Monday, December 6, 2010
(March 2010, U.S.)
When I was a child, my grandmother lived in Brooklyn. I thought it was a shithole! Growing up, I saw movies like THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971), SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (1977) and DO THE RIGHT THING that depicted Brooklyn in its existence. I thought it was a shithole! The college I attended and lived at was in Brooklyn. I thought it was a shithole! Having watched BROOKLYN'S FINEST three times since its release, I am convinced that the borough of Brooklyn, has been, is, and will forever remain in my eyes and my opinon, A FUCKING SHITHOLE!
Having gotten that less-than-flattering conviction out of the way, let's talk about the film. BROOKLYN'S FINEST, directed by Antoine Fuqua (he made TRAINING DAY, too) is a police crime thriller that depicts the horrible grit and the ugliness of the New York City streets in such an outstanding way that I haven't seen since films like THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971), SERPICO (1973), DEATH WISH (1974) and even Sylvester Stallone's NIGHTHAWKS (1981). Watching this film can cause you to temporarily forget all of the hype that has been generated about New York City ever since former mayor Rudy Giuliani supposedly "cleaned it up". The look, the feel and the sense of the city are hard-hitting and frightening. The cops who comprise the story here are equally frightening in their own manner.
Let's begin with Ethan Hawke. I had never heard of this guy before I saw him as an innocent and scared schoolboy in DEAD POET'S SOCIETY (1989). The schoolboy has not only grown up, but also displays an acting credibility that has transformed him into one of the most desperate "bad-ass motherfucker" cops I have ever seen on screen. His desperation, though, is not without empathy and understanding. He's a man with a loving wife, needy children and an immediate need for a bigger house. For this, he will commit acts of violence and theft against the very evil men he has sworn to fight. Following these acts is the inevitable rationalization and church confession that he must cling to in order for his soul to survive. In the end, though, neither he nor his soul will survive and you can only feel bad for the guy. He's a corrupt cop, yes, but that doesn't lessen your own longing for him to get what he needs to support and protect his family, even if he has to blow away the drug dealers and steal their money!
There is less to say about Don Cheadle, except that his style, his performance, his attitude and his personality as a desperate undercover narcotics cop are exactly what you'd expect on screen outside of a silly OCEAN'S ELEVEN film. And believe me, that's more than welcome, in my opinion. Wesley Snipes returns to the big screen after many years and offers more of the same that you may have seen in a film like NEW JACK CITY (1991). Don't worry - that's a good thing for a film of this magnitude.
Richard Gere has played a cop before. This time, there's no glory and no guts. He's a 22 year veteran who is so burned out that he no longer cares about anything except getting through the last week of the job to reach his long-deserved pension. Except there's one problem; deep down inside he's still a man with a heart and a conscience to do the right thing. This is never clearer than in the end when, after having already surrendered his shielf forever and acting on nothing more than his cop's instincts, he saves three girls from drug dealing pimps. Yes, there's probably nothing more cliche than the hero saving the girl from the villian, but I'll be damned if it doesn't work beautifully here. The last shot of the film is unforgettable, as he slowly walks away from the crime scene, having saved the girl(s) and finally redeemed his long-lost soul.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Detective Sal Procida (inside a church confession booth): "I did a bad thing...but to a bad guy; a very, very bad guy, all right, and for a good reason. You think that a rationalization, right? That's what you're thinkin'."
Priest: "Here, did you pray for guidance?"
Sal: "No, I couldn't do that."
Priest: "Why not?"
Sal: "'Cause prayers were not gonna get me what I needed."
Priest: "Is it more important than your relationship with God? No matter what you may have done, he's ready to forgive you."
Sal: "He is, huh?"
Priest: "We're all imperfect creatures, and we're lead to sin. That's why we have to surrender our souls to God."
Sal: "Well to be honest with you - I've been here before, all right, askin' for God's help, a lotta times, okay, an' my situation is not gettin' any sunnier, you know? So, so why should it now?"
Priest: "Your pride is denying the possibility of God's goodness."
Sal: "Why does He get all the glory, you know? Why is that, huh? He gets all the glory an' I get all the blame. I mean, is it not possible that maybe God isn't carryin' his end of the weight?
Priest: "Look, this thing is obviously weighing on you...so release it. Confess your sin. Pray for foregiveness."
Sal: "I don't want God's foregiveness! I WANT HIS FUCKIN' HELP!"