Release Date(s)2009 (July 6, 2010)
Studio(s)Millennium Films/Thunder Road (Anchor Bay)
I don’t often refer to films using other films as examples of style, feel or content, but if you asked me to describe Antoine Fuqua’s Brooklyn’s Finest to you that way, I would probably call it a combination of Boyz N the Hood and The Departed. It might also be thought of as an aesthetic sequel to Fuqua’s own Training Day. But no matter how it’s described, you can’t deny that Fuqua is on top of his game here in a genre that he helped perfect.
The film began as an entry that first-timer Michael C. Martin wrote for an online screenwriting contest, which he ended up winning. The quality of the material shined through enough that Fuqua and Millennium Films decided to make it. Shot in the heart of Brooklyn in 41 days, Brooklyn’s Finest delivers all of the downbeat drama that you could ask for. Raw, riveting and supremely well-acted, it’s one of the few films of the genre that gives you a solid story without an abundance of exposition. Most of the dialogue is character-driven, so the story itself is always moving forward. The whole cast rises to the occasion here, but it’s Ethan Hawke as Sal who really stands out. As he descends from a good cop to a bad one, we continually learn more about Sal’s motivations. And it’s nice to see Richard Gere doing some good work late in his career; most other actors his age don’t get material as good as this. It’s also good to see Fuqua returning to the genre he does so well. He comments on one of the featurettes that he didn’t want to do another cop film, but fell in love with the script. That’s almost like Scorsese saying he doesn’t like doing gangster films. It just seems so wrong. For me, Training Day was really the work of a master who knew exactly how to tell a story in that genre, so I hope that he makes more of them. Like Training Day, the final thirty minutes of Brooklyn’s Finest are the most powerful of the entire piece.
While I loved the film on a lot of different levels, there were a few things I didn’t like about it. The score, for instance. While it’s strong and operatic, it really felt a bit out of place in certain sections of the film. The other thing I didn’t like was the sex scene. I have zero problem with sexuality in film, but I generally expect a story to unfold without sidelining itself. All too often in films these days, the sex scenes tend to be gratuitous and pull you out of the story. Every now and again, such a scene will actually drive the story forward and contain either plot devices, exposition or character development. Not so here. Anyway, moving on.
As presented on Blu-ray, the film’s color palette is mostly muted. Greens and reds are strong, while brighter colors take a backseat, making the image look dirty and unrefined. Film grain is solid throughout and noise reduction seems to have been put to some use, but not excessively. Contrast is solid and the image is sharp. All in all, it’s really a solid visual presentation. As far as the soundtrack goes, you’re given two options: Dolby Digital 5.1 and lossless PCM 5.1. Both are good, but don’t expect the audio to be leaping out at you from all corners of the room. I’m not complaining about that, but by its very nature, the film doesn’t have a lot of true “surround” moments. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish for those who might need them.
The extras on the disc fly by pretty quickly, but are worth a watch. First up is an audio commentary with Fuqua. For me, the information he offers up wasn’t vital, but he has such a soothing voice that I found myself lulled by it. He mostly talks about the cast and crew, and sometimes mentions the way certain scenes were lit. Next up is a set of four featurettes: Chaos & Conflict: The Life of a New York Cop, Boyz N the Real Hood, An Eye for Detail: Director Featurette and From the MTA to the WGA: Writer Featurette. None of these are lengthy, but together they give you some nice insight into the making of the film. I found the piece on Michael C. Martin to be the most interesting of the batch. You also get a set of deleted moments, alternate montages and a couple of alternate endings. I’m actually glad the latter weren’t used. Finally, you get the film’s theatrical trailer, trailers for other Starz/Anchor Bay Blu-ray releases and a Digital Copy of the movie.
Brooklyn’s Finest certainly isn’t for everybody. It’s very gritty, violent and deals with some difficult yet true-to-life subject matter. But if you’re looking for a smart, edgy drama that really delivers the goods, you can’t go wrong with this one. I have a feeling that since the film earned little acclaim or box office, Brooklyn’s Finest might become an underground favorite of the genre.
- Tim Salmons