This is not the best reviewed film of the year, to say the least. Not the worst reviewed film either, but Peter Travers in Rolling Stone gave it zero stars. Zero! How bad does a film have to be to get zero stars?
Well, in this case, an awful lot worse than it actually is. In fact, I kind of liked Brooklyn's Finest.
If nothing else, Peter Travers ought to give it at least a half star just on account of the cinematography. It's by a young Mexican DP named Patrick Murguia, from IMDB this may be his first US film, it's gorgeous to look at it, and this person is a DP to watch. Especially in the final two reels, there's some wonderful work on the NY streets.
And this isn't an "if nothing else." Brooklyn's Finest has the same corrupt cop ingredients as any number of other movies, from Serpico to Prince of the City to Pride & Glory to Training Day (also from Brooklyn's Finest director Antoine Fuqua) to Street Kings and on and on. Yet somehow or other, I felt the characters here were better sketched by the writing and/or the performances than a lot of those other movies. Ethan Hawke is a cop with a growing family who needs a bigger house, but he doesn't always do what characters always do in movies like these. Don Cheadle plays an undercover cop who might be getting too involved with the baddies he's hanging out with, and there's a wonderful scene between him and his police handler played by Will Patton, who urges Cheadle to take back his life. The character Patton plays isn't such a nice guy, but there's some real resonance to the truth of this remark. Ellen Barkin steals her scenes. She was in Sea of Love with Al Pacino some 20 years back (another "I feel old" moment to realize it's 20 years now) so is it a happy or planned coincidence that we hear Sea of Love on the soundtrack at one point? Richard Gere has a world weariness in every crease on his face. Speaking of which, Gere, man, gets to have wrinkles. Ellen Barkin, woman, clearly has had some work done. Classic Hollywood double standard.
And who else do we have in the cast... Wesley Snipes. Vincent D'Onofrio. Brian F. O'Byrne. Lili Taylor. There are a lot of good people on screen in this movie.
I run the risk of reacting to some of the critical excesses on the down side -- no stars from Peter Travers, jeez -- by overselling the movie. Which I should definitely not do. It's not great. But it's a solid entertainment, well-crafted, well-acted, certainly worth renting and plenty of movies out there right now you'll do far worse by than this.