Brooklyn's Finest review (Blu-ray)

Antoine Fuqua scored a major success nine years ago with Training Day, a strong police drama with a knockout performance from Denzel Washington (winning his second Oscar) - but the movie was a fluke. All the elements gelled, but since then the director's other movies, such as Tears Of The Sun and King Arthur, have been nowhere near as good.

Brooklyn's Finest brings him back to a dark police milieu again, but alas, it too shoots blanks. It's solid enough, and the three leads are excellent, but the narrative is stodgy and lacks bite. Richard Gere is customarily fine - when is someone going to notice that he is consistently one of the best actors working in movies today - as a suicidal, hard drinking cop days away from retirement who unenthusiastically takes a young rookie under his wing. He pays regular visits to an attractive prostitute (Kane) in his spare time and one day espies a young girl being roughed up outside the courtesan's apartment. It transpires that the victim is on the missing person's list and, a few days later, Gere finds an opportunity to try and save her.

Don Cheadle plays a burnt out undercover cop desperate for promotion and a quiet desk job. He has become aquaintances with a major drugs lord (Snipes) who once saved his life, and baulks at his new assignment, framing his former friend so he can be nabbed by his superiors. Ethan Hawke plays a wired husband and father with severe financial worries. He's desperate to move his family to a bigger abode but can only accomplish this with stolen money he lifts from raids with the narcotics squad he works for. His friend and boss (O'Byrne) tries to make him see the error of his ways before he gets into further trouble.

These three plot strands have nothing to do with one another and only coincide right at the end when the three protagonists are approaching their targets in the same building. It's a watchable effort, confident and ambitious, but it's never rivetting.  The script and direction lack force and pizzazz though it's very well acted by the entire cast. We've seen this kind of tale done countless times before and Brooklyn's Finest doesn't offer us anything new. Fuqua's lucky touch is missing yet again.

EXTRAS ★★½ An audio commentary with director Fuqua; the featurette Conflict and Chaos: The life of a New York City Cop (6 minutes); the featurette From the MTA to the WGA, about the screenwriter who used to work in a toll booth (5 minutes); the featurette Boyz N the Real Hood (5 minutes); half an hour's worth of deleted scenes; and the theatrical trailer.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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