You know how on old cartoons the characters have an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other? The feuding sides plea their cases to get the body to do their bidding. Well, Brooklyn's Finest, this gritty NYPD drama is far too ominous for any of those cheesy antics, but subconscious tugs-of-war do grip you from the opening credits. Credit greed, wrath, sloth, lust and nearly every other deadly sin for most of the pulling.
Don Cheadle’s Tango is deep, deeeeep undercover, tiptoeing a line between hood and evil so gingerly you’d swear he was a Chinese acrobat. Richard Gere’s Eddie is a vet so numb to the outside world that he’d rather count the days till his retirement than stop a domestic dispute in the middle of broad daylight. And then there’s Ethan Hawke’s Sal, a decent guy who’s so desperate to get his growing family into a new house, he’s willing to do anything for the cash.
These three seemingly unconnected cop stories dramatically crescendo at the same Brooklyn projects on the same night. Props go out to director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) for intertwining the separate sagas without turning too many corners and having things get confusing.
Props go out to Fuqua for his part in the brave casting too. While having the always-steady Cheadle carry one-third of the movie is a cinch call, going with Wesley Snipes as a just-released drug lord Tango’s trying to get close enough to for a major arrest is savvy as hell. Don’t get it twisted. Wes is far from New Jack City’s Nino Brown, but he still commands attention. Gere and Hawke play respected enough roles that you hurt for them one sec and want to murk them the next.
On a purely aesthetic scale, Fuqua also earns some marks on his badge. He does things with color that brilliantly set tones. He positions lenses at certain spots in a room to say things words can’t fully express. But the man’s crown Brooklyn’s Finest achievement may be with the slick clash of religious paraphernalia across his soiled Rotten Apple landscape. A hooker’s home is plastered with Virgin Mary pictures. A cop prays just moments before a murderous bloodbath. All the while an audience gets a better understanding of the angels and devils the boys in blue routinely must listen to.