Coming from the lens of Training Day director Antoine Fuqa, this gritty thriller chronicling the different shades of grey within the NYPD still exudes a certain Hollywood shine. Hardly treading new ground - last year's Colin Farrell/Ed Norton starrer Pride and Glory did a better job of exploring the good, bad and indifferent moral dilemmas of police officers - Brooklyn's Finest is still occasionally stirring stuff, with some strong performances.
An eclectic group of cops are going through different kinds of anguish; Ethan Hawke's detective is struggling to move his family out of a house that is making his wife ill, forcing him to turn to crime to find the money, while Richard Gere's soon-to-retire alcoholic patrol officer stopped caring a long time ago, and just wants to get through his final seven days until retirement. Don Cheadle's undercover cop is in extremely deep in the projects of Brooklyn, and has become emotionally involved with those he's supposed to be putting away - namely Wesley Snipes' local head honcho.
It's clear that director Fuqa and writer Michael C Martin were influenced by the brilliant HBO series The Wire (a couple of familiar faces even turn up) but while The Wire had time to carefully explore the lives of policemen and criminals, this two-hour odd movie rushes to the more ponderous scenes, then slows to a standstill. Of course Fuqa was always going to string the main characters together at some point, and he does just that, sloppily.
Hawke's desperate detective on the take fares the worst out of the bunch, as his guy is given precious little respite from looking stressed out and angry at the world - rendering him unlikeable despite his strangely noble intentions to put family above all else. Cheadle's Narc is poorly established, but the reliable character actor still gives a predictably stellar turn and his performance is ultimately the most cohesive of the three. Gere is fine, but a strange final frame does him no favours and asks more questions than it answers.
It's the supporting performances where Brooklyn's Finest shines most; Irish actor Brian F O Bryne is excellent as Hawke's best mate and confident, while Wesley Snipes is surprisingly strong as the former streetwise bad ass, who may have gone a little soft in prison. The film's most affective moments are between him and Cheadle, and that relationship could have been expanded upon properly into its own movie. Still, there's enough drama here to engage most, even if it isn't handled with as much care as it should have been.