Courtesy of PHILLIP V. CARUSO
There are good cops and there are bad cops. But there are also those rare cops who are good with a bad streak. Director Antoine Fuqua has mastered the delicate balance of bad men who make good cops, which he displays in his cop thriller, “Brooklyn’s Finest.”
The film takes place during one week in Brooklyn, focusing on three cops all dealing with major moral dilemmas. The film’s major theme — one Fuqua is not a stranger to — is defying authority.
“I’ve always been with the underdog,” Fuqua said in an interview with The Eagle. “I grew up loving gangster films like the original ‘Scarface’ and ‘Public Enemy,’ so I definitely relate my films to questioning authority.”
The film starts by focusing on Richard Gere’s character as aging officer Eddie Dugan. Dugan is apathetic and uncaring, to the point where he hardly wants to get up in the morning to go finish up his last few days of cop work. After years on the force, Dugan has nothing to show for it. All he does is pay for prostitutes, deal unsympathetically with the rookies he still has to train and count down the few days until his retirement.
Gere plays the character as one-dimensionally as possible, with barely any emotion. That might be a problem, but the character is so pathetic that Gere’s acting is convincing and appropriate. However, Dugan doesn’t evoke emotion in the same way as Ethan Hawke and Don Cheadle’s do.
This role is the second time Fuqua has worked with Hawke. The first time is in the Oscar-winning film “Training Day” with Hawke as a rookie under training of Denzel Washington’s crazy veteran police officer. Since then, Fuqua has been a fan and the two had mutual feelings about working in this film. Hawke plays Sal, a married man with four kids and twins on the way. Sal is struggling to make ends meet as a police officer who conducts home raids of drug dealers. His character is miserable, obsessed with the idea of moving his family to a bigger home. Out of desperation, he begins stealing money from dealers, under the guise of doing honorable cop work. Hawke plays the cop marvelously; his gravelly voice and constantly furrowed brow draw concern from the audience. The moviegoer is completely immersed in his pain and desperation, sometimes even justifying his crazy actions.
The next best performance comes from Don Cheadle. He plays Detective Clarence “Tango” Butler, an undercover cop who is having a hard time keeping up his act. He buddies up with Caz, a drug dealer who saved his life at one point, played by Wesley Snipes. Tango is struggling as he tries to persuade others of his status as a drug dealer, while at the same time trying to get reassigned so that he no longer has to do undercover work.
Cheadle is excellently cast as this character, despite the fact that his accent is an awkward cross between hood and nasally Brooklynite. While Hawke is the star of the film, Cheadle’s character and his situation add tension, underlining the theme of defying authority, which Fuqua has a knack for lacing into his films.
Fuqua certainly has a wide range of films to portray his theme of defying authority, such as “Training Day,” “Tears of the Sun” and “Shooter.” However, “Brooklyn’s Finest” is only his second film to really look in depth at the situations that cops have to deal with. In addition, it’s his first time working with Wesley Snipes, who tentatively returned to film last year.
“I had some reservations,” Snipes said in an interview with The Eagle. “But Antoine persuaded me, and anyways we’ve been trying to work together for ten years.”
The role of Caz, a smooth drug dealer who was recently released from prison, is not unlike some of Snipes’ previous characters. Even so, Snipes said that though drug dealers are not a new role to play, he still likes to work hard to get into character.
“I like to draw from the real world,” he said. “I’m legitimate. I take pictures and colors and fill my rooms with them so it can filter into my subconscious. Then I see if the cats who really live that life can believe me, and the rest falls into place.”
Snipes pulls it off well, but his character really does not mean as much as the cops, whom Fuqua focuses on.
“They’re human,” Fuqua said. “Cops protect you and take a sacred oath, like priests, but they make no money at all. Plus, they don’t get checked psychologically enough, even though they see the worst in mankind.”
While it seems like he’s in awe of the police, he’s mostly just intrigued by their situation. Directors have long been making cop films, but none have been able to do it quite like Fuqua.
“Life’s a matter of choice,” he said. “And they made the choice to serve the greater calling to run towards a bullet.”
“Brooklyn’s Finest” hits theaters March 5.