BROOKLYN'S FINEST (Blu-ray; Anchor Bay) - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

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post #1 of 1 Old 07-19-10, 09:28 PM Thread Starter
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BROOKLYN'S FINEST (Blu-ray; Anchor Bay)

Studio Name: Anchor Bay (Overture Films/Millennium Films)
MPAA Rating: R
Disc/Transfer Information: 1080p Anamorphic Widescreen Presentation 2.40:1; Region 1 (U.S.) Release Tested
Tested Audio Track: English PCM 5.1
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Starring Cast: Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes



Boy, did I really want to like this one – born in Brooklyn, New York myself, and living there for some years before moving to the suburbs of Nassau County, in addition to my father owning a furniture business with multiple stores in varying areas of the borough of Brooklyn, I was really looking forward to Antoine Fuqua’s take on the East Coast gangster/ghetto mystique as he did when profiling the West Coast gangs in Training Day. Actually, what I was expecting – and I suspect others were as well – was an East Coast version of Training Day; almost like what John Carpenter did with Escape From New York and then Escape From L.A. The final product in Brooklyn’s Finest was a bit different; in my opinion, Training Day was a cinematic triumph that kept the tension going with electrifying performances by Denzel Washington and some real-life L.A. gang members – the entire film was simply engaging from beginning to end. Although Shawn Edwards of Fox TV claimed Brooklyn’s Finest was “an absolute triumph,” I don’t agree – it was simply nowhere as engaging as Fuqua’s Training Day.

One of the most interesting aspects of the story behind this project can be found watching the extra features on the Blu-ray (and DVD); apparently, a New York MTA worker had suffered injuries from a car accident and needed money for a new car – he stayed at home and wrote the screenplay that was eventually picked up by Fuqua and Overture/Millennium Films, documenting the life of Brooklyn cops and their relationships with the hardcore members of the projects in the borough. The problem is, this notion has been done before – remember Keanu Reeves and his band of renegade crooked cops in Street Kings? That’s what Brooklyn’s Finest felt like. It had engaging characters and possible story lines, but it wasn’t executed with much excitement or polish, and it suffers for that, making the film as a whole come off feeling not that engaging to watch. Then, there’s the issue of the massive cast that’s in this – Ethan Hawke returns to Fuqua’s acting stable to portray a crooked Italian NYPD officer, Sal, who needs to rob cash from Brooklyn drug lords in order to pay for a new house. Richard Gere seems interesting on paper as a burned-out NYPD cop that’s about to retire but is forced into a rookie program that has him riding around with beginner kids right out of the academy, taking them through the worst parts of Brooklyn, but his character never really develops itself; it’s suggested that the character redeems himself of a career going nowhere by a “heroic” act of freeing some kidnapped white girls being used as prostitutes in Brooklyn towards the end of the film, but it really wasn’t entertaining to watch. Further, we have Don Cheadle playing an undercover officer trying to work his way up the recruitment ladder by taking an assignment of trying to take down major crime figure “Casanova” played by Wesley Snipes – Cheadle’s character drives around in a black tricked out BMW 7 Series, the envy of all the chain-wearing, baggy jean-toting youths in the Brooklyn projects, pretending to be a drug dealing criminal legend amongst them, while also finding it difficult to remain friendly with Snipes’ Casanova character. Normally, with a cast this known and involved, a script and final product suffers for it.

The tone and atmosphere that Fuqua sets in Brooklyn’s Finest is almost superb – the feel of the Brooklyn streets, the thick, heavy-handed street slang of the African-American youths populating the drug-ridden projects, the almost closed-in feel of the New York City borough, suggesting its roots as a community-driven geographic area. However, it’s the point of the plot – and the splintering sub-plots – that simply don’t make a memorable mark; the essence here is that each of the cops headlining in the plot will somehow meet in a final unrelated fashion at the finale, all fulfilling some kind of “destiny” of sorts. Hawke spends the majority of the film stealing cash wherever he can from whatever drug scum he busts along with other NYPD team members, in an attempt to buy a new house as the one he’s living in with his wife (played by Lili Taylor) and kids is riddled with wood mold. When he’s not off stealing the cash, he’s playing poker in his basement with other gun-wielding NYPD hotheads and telling his daughter her miniskirt is too short; meanwhile, Gere is a depressed cop getting ready to retire from the NYPD and its notoriously dangerous Brooklyn precinct he’s assigned to, and he’s fighting an alcohol and prostitute addiction issue. He is given a last assignment during his final week as a cop to escort rookie officers around the borough in a new program the department is implementing. His first partner doesn’t work out, the two of them clearly not getting along, so Gere’s character is assigned another rookie – and then learns the first kid that was assigned to him was killed in the very dangerous neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

The most engaging moments of the film are when the screen time concentrates on Cheadle and Snipes’ meetings with one another and conversations – you’ll see a great deal of echoing of Snipes’ “Nino Brown” character from the classic New Jack City here, especially during a rooftop sequence. But to be honest, Snipes is getting old – as much as I wanted to buy him as a kick-, hardcore thug from the streets of Brooklyn, now older and seasoned and out of prison, there was simply something that was a bit off about his performance. Snipes even admits in a featurette interview that during the filming, although he was born and raised in the Bronx section of New York, he had a difficult time following and keeping up with the slang spoken by the real hoods of the Brooklyn ghetto, used as real background actors in this. Still, the storyline has Snipes’ Casanova character now released from doing hard time meeting up with old “friend” Cheadle (known as “Tango” in the film) in order to organize the street thugs controlling Brooklyn’s drugs, and these sequences are fun to watch – Snipes and Cheadle fire off ultra-quick street slang to one another, knocking you over the head with gangster-esque energy in the vain of Juice and Menace II Society. Throughout it all, Snipes’ Casanova doesn’t know that Cheadle’s Tango is an undercover cop assigned to bring him down once and for all.

The film cuts back and forth between all these different characters and what they’re going through – Hawke suffering with the pressure of needing extra cash to buy his house, Cheadle faced with betraying Snipes and Gere facing his last days as a cop – and the notion, as I said, is that they’re all supposed to intersect and come together in a final frame at the end. I don’t think it was executed correctly. How does this all go down exactly? Well, Cheadle, after private meetings with his superior, played by Will Patton, decides he’s not going to be a part of taking Snipes’ character down – until Snipes meets an unfortunate fate right in front of Cheadle. Meanwhile, Hawke’s Sal character discovers that Cheadle is an undercover agent for the NYPD and decides to try and find out where his stash of drugs and money are, leading him to the drug-ridden project apartment building where this drama finally comes to a crossroads. Once there, Hawke himself meets a tragic fate too. In the middle comes Gere, who although has hung up his shield and officially retires as a cop once this all goes down, discovers that some white girls are being pimped out as prostitutes and strung out on drugs – he follows the van they’re being transported in, and it leads him to an apartment in this same Brooklyn ghetto where Hawke just met his destiny. In a struggle to free the girls from their cracked-out African-American captors, Gere’s character attempts to redeem himself for a career of simply not caring about his job in a “heroic” act of getting the girls free. It is perhaps the film’s final frame that has Gere walking towards the camera, covered in blood from his skirmish with the pimps and crackheads, with a sea of flashing lights and cop cars behind him under the elevated train outside the Brooklyn projects, and with the scene then freezing and fading out, that was the most disappointing. Fuqua doesn’t satisfy us here with this ending, as it feels rather rushed and tacked on – it is not nearly as interesting or satisfying as the dual endings of Training Day.

I came out of watching Brooklyn’s Finest with just disappointment; I really expected better. It wasn’t a terrible film in the least, but it wasn’t memorable to me either. To me, it smacked of films that have been there and done this – like the aforementioned Street Kings and a plethora of other forgettable corrupt cop pictures. I think Fuqua is a talented filmmaker, and the subject of the script writer who was behind this was interesting, but I simply didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as I did Training Day, which I felt was just executed better.


Is it just me, or does Anchor Bay’s home video distribution channel have their hands in many releases as of late? The last title I sampled from this studio was The Crazies, and that Blu-ray exhibited some traces of budget restraints – here, Brooklyn’s Finest is encoded with a 1080p transfer in a 2.40:1 widescreen ratio that looks largely very nice. The clarity at times is striking, with details on actors’ faces lavishly popping with high quality elements. To be perfectly honest, there really isn’t anything that stood out in any major negative way or any other way on this transfer – shadow detail was nearly perfect in the dark sequences, the New York City streets were rendered with realistic tones and colors, fleshtones were nearly spot-on…nothing to really comment on here in-depth. One sequence that stood out to me came during the first frame in which we see Gere’s character jump up out of a nightmare in his bed – his facial detail in this sequence on the 1080p encode was outrageously realistic, almost exhibiting elements that would allow the viewer to count every bead of sweat on his face.


As in standard Anchor Bay practice (for Blu-ray), two English audio choices were available on this Region 1 release of Brooklyn’s Finest – a lossy Dolby Digital mix and a PCM track, both in a 5.1 arrangement. Choosing the (uncompressed) PCM mix, the audio didn’t really wow me – dialogue needed a good deal of amplification to get to reasonable levels, and there wasn’t that much engaging surround usage to speak of. Some sequences of the film were accompanied by jarring audio cues – such as shootouts between cops and drug dealers – where the bullets and gunfire made their way startlingly into the back channels and all around the soundstage. But for the most part, this PCM track wasn’t that engaging. I even noted a slight lack of LFE on the track.


A very interesting collection of Featurettes on the film made for a good insight into the locations used to shoot, the history behind the screenwriter’s story, the relationship between the seasoned actors in this film and much more – very good extra material here.


Can I recommend Brooklyn’s Finest? For a rental, no doubt. I would have liked to have seen this in theaters, in fact. While entertaining, though, it falls short of a real memorable cinematic experience – and those of you who have seen and have a great affection for Antoine Fuqua’s awesome Training Day will know what I am talking about almost instantly. I for one don’t see repeat viewings being necessary for a permanent purchase for my own collection, and that’s all I can offer from my perspective – your mileage, as always, may vary.

Thank you for reading, and please tell me what you thought about the Blu-ray release of Brooklyn’s Finest!
Osage_Winter is offline  


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