Movie News & Reviews

'Brooklyn's Finest' lacks momentum

I have a strong bias against any story or world that gets revisitedtoo often, which explains my aversion to both 12-volume fantasyseries and getting up in the morning.

This is why — despite sharing a birthday with Lewis Carroll — I have nointerest in anything from Alice in Wonderland other than grownwomen in that little blue dress. It's one of those cultural krakenswhose slimy tentacles pop up everywhere. I feel like I already knoweverything there is to know about the Queen of Hearts and hercastration obsession.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

Doesn't the love of a story's weird, wild imagination start to dim bythe 8,000th time it's made into a movie? What I'm getting at isscrew you, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland and your $41million opening day. You're out there boring us in old and busted wayswhen we could be getting bored in slightly newer ways by cop dramassuch as Brooklyn's Finest.

Three cops are in desperate straits: Ethan Hawke, whose family isalready too big for his moldy home — and now his wife is pregnant withtwins — steals cash from dealers during drug raids. Suicidal RichardGere is about to retire from an undistinguished career in which henever went out of his way to do better.

And deep undercover Don Cheadle is ordered to set up old friend WesleySnipes. As each policeman struggles with the hardships of the job,violence looms on the horizon.

Brooklyn's Finest unfolds its three variations on a theme withthe stately grace of a much better movie. Director Antoine Fuquamanages detail well, letting the specifics of the characters' troublesdrift in from the background. It looks good and is paced with themeasured step of a movie with big stuff on its mind.

But yeah, I just never really got into it.

At first, that pacing feels deliberate, the slow, steady, medal-winningkind tortoises are always lecturing you about even though they haven'twon another race since, the pompous windtards. Turns out, however,Brooklyn's Finest limps because it has a fierce case of gout.

Thing is, its stories are weak. Hawke's might be able to stand on itsown, but the others are one-note and undercooked as ground beefsashimi. The movie's interwoven structure can only disguise this solong before you start to wonder where any of it's going.

The characters aren't much stronger. You've got the guilty Catholic,the week-from-retirement alcoholic, the undercover who's spent toomuch time under those covers. All Brooklyn's Finest is missingis a hollering police sergeant and that guy who makes his mouth soundlike robots and airplanes. In fairness, the script spends a lot oftime trying to develop its leads, but split three ways, the pictureremains blurry.

In some cases it's not just cliched, it's outright derivative. WhileI'm always happy to see not one but three cast members of TheWire populating a similar universe of cops and crime, anotherscene is lifted whole hog from Al Swearengen's patented BlowjobMonologues. Bad call, writer Michael C. Martin. Al doesn't toleratethieving. He's not about to let a little thing like being a fictionalcharacter from the 19th century stop him from teleporting naked intoyour living room Terminator-style and knifing you in thekidneys.

For all the talent on display — the cast is great, the direction isconfidently understated, the dialogue works — Brooklyn's Finesthas the momentum of a dropped handkerchief, and its "police offers onthe edge" triptych doesn't justify itself.

But it still beats Alice in Wonderland.

Grade: C