On paper, aspects of “Brooklyn’s Finest” may sound like parts of a familiar cop film. The film focuses on the lives of three cops, one of whom is only a few days from his retirement. We have seen generic characters like him in films before who are trying to manage their last few days in a police uniform. However, this film builds a strong character out of the retiring police officer and the two other film leads as it injects them into an exciting and gritty movie that is well worth the price of admission.
The three main characters in the film are all New York cops, each of them facing difficult circumstances in their lives. Richard Gere plays the aforementioned retiring cop, Eddie Dugan. Ethan Hawke plays Sal Procida, a young cop trying to buy his family a new house because the materials from the walls of his current apartment are making his pregnant wife sick. Don Cheadle plays undercover cop Clarence Butler, who is trying to get promoted so he can complete his undercover duties. Each of these three characters is trying to break free of something, whether that something is the police force, a tough financial situation, or undercover work. The movie chronicles a few days in their lives as they work to escape from their own respective circumstances.
While we’ve seen some of these plot points before, the movie manages to stay fresh. At times, the three stories intersect but each of them is set up in a way that each could sustain its own film. The movie is ultra-violent and sometimes hard to watch but that only adds to the realism of life for police officers monitoring some rough neighborhoods like those depicted in the film.
These officers are all extremely flawed but they are all relatable characters. Dugan, for instance, is a man who has served on the police force for over two decades, has a modest record as a police officer, and is just trying to make it through his final days on the force without taking on any tough assignments or doing anything outside of his normal duties. When pushed to stop a domestic argument outside of his precinct by a younger office, Dugan backs down and tells his associate that they only handle conflicts in their given area. He is a tired man who simply wants to finish doing his job so he can end his career.
Gere, Hawke, and Cheadle are all stellar performing their roles as well-written characters. Throughout the film we can see where the characters are coming from and why they often choose to make the decisions they make, in spite of the consequences that will likely accompany them. Gere especially stands out in this solid cast.
In viewing the trailer for this film, some may be reminded of “Training Day,” another gritty cop drama directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Ethan Hawke, though Hawke’s characters in the two films are distinctive from one another. As compared to “Training Day,” which I recently watched for the first time, “Brooklyn’s Finest” is a stronger film with a more well-rounded story. Whereas “Training Day” focused predominantly on Denzel Washington’s corrupt cop, “Brooklyn’s Finest” focuses on a variety of characters and their own stories and motivations.
The bottom line is “Brooklyn’s Finest” is an impressive cop film with a great cast. Although it does have certain clichéd aspects to the story that weaken it, the movie ultimately succeeds and tells its story very well.