InBrooklyn’s Finest, burned out veteran Eddie Dugan (Richard Gere) is just one week away from his pension and a fishing cabin in Connecticut. Narcotics officer Sal Procida (Ethan Hawke) has discovered there’s no line he won’t cross to provide a better life for his long-suffering wife and seven children. And Clarence “Tango” Butler (Don Cheadle) has been undercover so long his loyalties have started to shift from his fellow police officers to his prison buddy Caz (Wesley Snipes), one of Brooklyn’s most infamous drug dealers. With personal and work pressures bearing down on them, each man faces daily tests of judgment and honor in one of the world’s most difficult jobs.
When NYPD’s Operation Clean Up targets the notoriously drug-ridden BK housing project, all three officers find themselves swept away by the violence and corruption of Brooklyn’s gritty 65th Precinct and its most treacherous criminals. During seven fateful days, Eddie, Sal and Tango find themselves hurtling inextricably toward the same fatal crime scene and a shattering collision with destiny.
Sometimes, as the old proverb goes, fiction has a hard time competing with the wonders of the real world. A fine case in point is 'Brooklyn's Finest,' Antoine Fuqua's latest violent cop melodrama starring Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Wesley Snipes, and Ethan Hawke. In the real world -- our world -- we have the fascinating fairytale of NYC MTA employee and wannabe screenwriter Michael C. Martin toiling away during rehab for a broken back to passionately pen his first script, all because he wanted to enter a screenplay contest to afford a car. He loses the contest, but a producer finds his script, and it quickly ends up in the hands of 'Training Day' director, Fuqua. Within two years -- a very short timetable in the "development" of a screenplay -- the movie is shot with a real budget and four movie stars. This is not the story of a randomly lucky person, but rather a guy who struggled tirelessly to pursue a dream, working internships and unpaid gigs while supporting himself with a day job deep in the tunnels of New York's subway system. In the end, hard work won and a dream became a reality.
That dream of course is 'Brooklyn's Finest', about three very different cops in one of New York's most dangerous precincts. Gere plays Eddie, the 22-year veteran with one week left to go. He has survived for many years by never getting involved, but maybe these events will finally cause him to act. Cheadle lives as Tango, an undercover officer who has been so deep so long he's in jeopardy of losing his former life to the one he's playing. Snipes, as Caz, is Tango's real life hoodlum friend, and who is trying to go straight after getting out of jail. Will Tango set up his old friend to get back his life? And Hawke, portraying family man Sal, is a narc who needs to score cash quick to get his large family into a safer home. How many laws will be crossed, and lives dispensed, so a man can provide for his own?
The archetypes we have all seen before, perhaps too many times, but the best thing about 'Brooklyn's Finest' is its natural authenticity. The characters and their world are both well scripted and honestly portrayed. One can imagine all the passion and effort that went into creating this detailed, interesting world, and for the most part it works well.
However, on the flipside of that very same coin, the filmmakers' noble efforts are perhaps too visible on screen. The film has a wonderful sense of impending doom -- many or all of these characters may die, but we're not sure which, how, when, why, or by who's hand -- but these tragedies feel more coincidental than linked in a cause-and-effect way, as if the characters only make these choices on this day because their Creators wanted it to be so. There is perhaps a missing "inevitability." Further, even with 30 minutes left on the cutting room floor (and available to see in the Special Features), the movie can feel long and overloaded with great character moments. Meaning, individually, each scene bathes in interesting choices and naturalized-yet-emotionally powerful dialogue, but back to back to back to back, every scene plays like Oscar-fodder. Which shouldn't be a bad thing, yet if every scene is a "10," it can make a movie feel flat or one note.
Potential flatness and the occasional pacing issues aside, 'Brooklyn's Finest' is a good movie, but not a great one. It's hard to exactly say why, as the actors certainly swing for the fences, doing some really strong work – with an extra compliment to Snipes who displays real range here. Fuqua delivers some nice visuals into this broken world, though this isn't as thrilling or cohesive a cop journey as 2001's 'Training Day.' The real star of the show remains the writer. His raw tale of the men and the streets they police is a fresh enough take on a world where everything could have easily seemed old, and his story is passionately well crafted. By the end of the story, the journey taken is an emotional one, filled with characters we care about, which makes 'Brooklyn's Finest' largely a success, though I imagine for reasons perhaps unarguable, this script was a better read than it is a complete film.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The 50GB dual layer Blu-ray disc does not appear to be Region locked. Popping the disc into your player brings HD trailers for Starz's (Anchor Bay's sister company) 'Spartacus: Blood and Sand,' 'The Crazies' (a really strong horror film, by the way), and a general ad for Anchor Bay / Stars / Overture Films Blu-ray.
'Brooklyn's Finest' comes to Blu-ray with a very good 1080p/24 AVC-MPEG4 encode (aspect ratio 2.40:1).
There's no noise, damage, or blemishes to be found. And there is a great amount of detail in faces and surrounding textures (see Cheadle sitting in the tall wooden bench of a restaurant with Will Patton, or Hawke's basement). Skin tones are natural, reflecting their environments and lighting schemes. Night scenes exude high contrast, which flawlessly transition from bright lights to inky blacks. Low-lit scenes never display a drop in resolution or color quality.
Knocking this Blu down from the perfection that is "reference" are occasional soft moments and some banding in a few over-saturated scenes (see Gere's skin when bathed in the red light of a prostitute's apartment), but overall, this is a fine example of a modern film being immediately preserved in HD.
The disc features an uncompressed PCM 5.1 surround sound mix, but beware, the film will start with its lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital track unless you specifically select otherwise. This of course can be done at the main menu, or mid-movie.
Overall, 'Brooklyn's Finest' has a robust mix, featuring piercing and popping gunshots, with a well-toned LFE channel. Bass is punchy and supportive to whatever is happening on screen, but never calls attention to itself. Voices are clear and never hidden. The soundtrack's score and ambient music combine nicely to create a believable environment as well as drive the film's tragic tone.
The big flaw in the mix, which is an odd one, is how the surround channels seem to have incorrect directional qualities. For example, there's an early scene where Don Cheadle enters an drug den apartment. At first, the soundtrack shines, discretely locating the various conversations simultaneously taking place. However, as Cheadle moves into the environment, and no matter the camera angle, the sound levels of these conversations remain at a high volume and located in one channel (in this case, the front right) despite the fact they should have naturally transitioned to another channel or become softer. It's unclear as to when this mistake was made, whether it was post production or in the Blu-ray's encode, but it's a distracting flaw that shows up more than once, making a generally strong surround mix seem imprecise, which is odd for a modern film.
As stated above, there is also an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound track and regarding subtitles, viewers may opt to read 'Brooklyn's Finest' in English SDH, and Spanish.
'Brooklyn's Finest comes loaded with hours of special features, including an audio commentary; 30 minutes making-of featurettes (which can be viewed all at once, or separately); 30 minutes of deleted, alternate, or expanded scenes (which can only be accessed in one lump; the theatrical trailer; and a Digital Copy to play on your Mac, PC, or mobile device.
'Brooklyn's Finest' is an authentic, honest journey into the pressures involved with being a cop in very tough neighborhoods. As in real life, there is no one definition for the "cop" experience, and here the acting, directing, and writing combine to explore these emotional tragedies in Shakespearean broad strokes. Though not perfect, I suspect this film -- as well as its "always on 10" mentality -- may grow on me as time passes. Fans of the film will be very happy with this Blu-ray. Those wondering if they should check it out, I would say, yes, give it a rent. It's not as good as 'Training Day', but it's worth at least one viewing for audiences to decide for themselves whether this is for them.
For those wondering about the film's star rating, please know that I struggled with this one -- between 3.5 and 4 -- but personally a "4 or 4.5 rating" is a movie I really enjoy, craving watching often, and one that I feel fully succeeds in almost every way it intended. For me, 'Brooklyn's Finest comes in just a hair under that, but may in time grown into a full 4. If this were a lettered system, I'd say "B minus". If I could legally invoke Thumbs in an up or down position, and I were two people, I'd probably split it with one up and one down.