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Brooklyns’ Finest

03 Apr

Brooklyn’s Finest — directed by Antoine Fuqua. Cops&CrimeDrama. 132 minutes Color 2010.

★★★★★
The Story: Three cops imperil their souls in crime-prevention in three different ways.
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If you want to enjoy Black History Month in rich dress, watch Brooklyn’s Finest, for it gives you top-form acting by all hands, but particularly by Don Cheadle, Ellen Barkin, and the great Wesley Snipes — fortified by the direction of black director, Antoine Fuqua.

Antoine Fuqua is one of those for whom the animate world exists — one of those rare directors who can capture performance — not just of actors but of places and things. And situations.

Antoine Fuqua directed Training Day, a film of honorable regard, and it is fascinating to see Denzel Washington, who won an Oscar for it, not appear as the lead in this one. Washington would have been cast against type as an ordinary grunt cop, grizzled and bushed, in his last week before retirement. Unheroic, and not even an anti-hero, the character is now miscast with Richard Gere, who, like Washington, is too good looking for the part, but who also does not possess the banality of a human whose daily drudge has not risen in his own and the eyes of his fellow cops above the routine of a milkman. It is a role for John C. Reilly.

Gere does beautifully with what he and is not and seizes the freedom to be so efficient in the part that you forget he is miscast. I take this as due to Fuqua’s direction, the script by Michael C. Martin, and Gere’s own love of his craft. All praise to him and them.

The point of this review is that the writing is first class, the direction is first class, as are the score, costumes, sets, editing, filming. All this feeds with diamonds the actors, such that none of them have ever been better in anything.

Ethan Hawke (also in Training Day) is the sleaze-cop stealing drug-bust loot. His face of a Juvenile, that usually stands against his credibility in mature parts like this, photographs finally as diabolical. It suits Hawke’s smug mouth, Mephistopheles eyebrows, and the inner nerve of his instrument — his braggadocio. So, finally, in a film, you do not stand outside of him with his privilege but pitch in with the hopeless desperation of the situation he finds himself in with his wife and three children and with his nasty streak in full array.

Lily Taylor plays his wife, tumescent with child. For the first or at least seldom time as an actor she does not ride her nag, but understands the power of a part’s being on the periphery. Her actor’s work is humble and just. She understands she is playing the part of a character focused elsewhere than the policework plot, but rather on her crowd of homemaking chores and on whatever her sacrifices to them that might entail. She’s wonderful.

As is the much under-used actor Ellen Barkin. Here she plays the ruthless police boss. She gives a rendition of such excruciating intensity that, although it is a supporting role, I want to see the entire movie again to watch her enact it.

Then we have Don Cheadle wedded in danger to Wesley Snipes. Cheadle’s default position as an actor is his tapioca heart not much on view here, I rejoice to report. That gentleness, that brown, soft-eyed withdrawal of danger into the warm canopied bed of a masculinity that would harm no one, has been his customary aura as an actor. And a beautiful one, too, and not on view here, as he seesaws almost imperceptibly between loyalty to his best friend and loyalty to his job as an undercover cop missioned to destroy that friend.

Another under-used actor, the great Wesley Snipes, plays the vice-king, a Terror Of The Earth or at least of Brooklyn. He again brings to the screen his danger and his sense of the immediate. In playing the immediate, the actor understands that one must always be one split second ahead of it.

How does an actor play that he does not know that?

Watch Brooklyn’s Finest and see if you can tell.

Engage with our finest A-A talent — our cultural heritage made right now — a Black History’s treasure shining its silver on today’s very table.

 
 
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