‘Brooklyn’s Finest’ paints vivid picture of city streets

By Mimi Whetstone


“It’s not a matter of right and wrong, it’s a matter of righter and wronger.”

While not grammatically correct, the blunt opening statement of director Antoine Fuqua’s latest crime drama, “Brooklyn’s Finest,” truly sets the tone for the trio of plots about to unfold.

When the New York Police Department’s “Operation Clean-Up” targets the notoriously drug-ridden BK housing project, the film’s three main characters find themselves swept up in the violence and corruption of Brooklyn’s gritty inner sanctum and its most treacherous criminals.

After panning across a grizzly and gray New York City cemetery, we are introduced to Narcotics officer Sal Procida, the first of the three conflicted New York City police officers to be followed as their lives are dramatically transformed by their involvement in the massive drug operation.

Procida, portrayed in a smoldering performance by Oscar nominee Ethan Hawke, is forced to test the limits of his conscience when his personal life begins to crumble beneath his street-hardened exterior.

In order to provide a better life for his long-suffering wife and seven children, Procida sees pocketing drug money recovered from cash-heavy raids as the only feasible solution to his financial woes. While his wife’s ailing health and the every growing number of offspring revealed to us throughout the film seemed rather contrived, Hawke’s performance gave his character a believable and relatable quality that audiences are able to feel compassion for, despite his circumstances and unethical decisions to solve them.

The second of the three tales revolves around undercover detective Clarence Butler, or “Tango.” Played effortlessly by Oscar nominee Don Cheadle, Tango is eager to fulfill the duties of his dangerous lifestyle and resign to a safe and predictable desk job. After years of working undercover, he begins to find his loyalties shifting from his fellow police officers to his seedy allies, namely his former prison buddy Casanova or “Caz,” one of Brooklyn’s most infamous drug dealers (Wesley Snipes).

When Tango is assigned to set up a police orchestrated drug bust, with Caz as the target, Tango must choose whether to risk the pending career change he so desperately seeks or scorn the job and attempt to warn the man who once saved his life.

The final addition to the trio of main characters is Eddie Dugan, depicted by a valiant effort from Richard Gere.

A burnt-out veteran of the force one week from his pension and a fishing cabin in Connecticut, Dugan is sentenced to showing rookies the ropes by leading them through routine noise complaints and public disputes.

While browsing the walls of a convenience store after a fight breaks out, Dugan eyes a missing person’s ad matching the one he’s been studying in the police station every morning. The day following his retirement, Dugan spots the missing woman being drugged, abused and molested, before she is led inside a van en route to a high profile drug deal. Dugan decides to endanger his life and follow the van, despite being relieved of his duties after 10 years of service.

During the seven fateful days chronicled, Procida, Tango and Dugan hurtle inextricably toward the same fatal crime scene and a shattering collision with destiny. When the men simultaneously enter the gory and substance-laced scene at the film’s finale, each of them must make decisions, torn between professional and personal demons, not choosing which path is right or wrong, but “righter and wronger.”

As far as the genre goes, this film certainly exudes both crime and drama thoroughly. The plot’s lack of resolution left a bit to be desired, as did Gere’s believability as anything besides a soft-spoken romantic, but overall the film satisfies for what it is.

The players in this movie’s game aren’t the glamorous roles our eyes find pleasant to see on the silver screen. Instead it consists of damaged drug dealers, detached prostitutes and determined officers, each of whom proves to be as vulnerable and disposable as the rats that walk the city streets among them. The film captures the volatile and deadly world of one of New York’s most dangerous precincts through the eyes of the men who pledged to protect and serve it, as they face the wrenching choices that allow them to earn the title “Brooklyn’s Finest.”