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03/05/2010

'Brooklyn's Finest': bad cop overkill

"Brooklyn's Finest" gets caught in a "Traffic" jam.

The location?  That's easy, just follow director Antoine Fuqua's frequently flowing blood trail.

Actually, the original source of this blood-stained tale of three dirty cops on a potentially deadly collision course is Michael C. Martin.

A first-time screenwriter and former subway flagger in the bowels of New York City, Martin supplies Fuqua (also executive producer) with a tale of cops so dirty you might get the impression that no honest guys sworn "to serve and protect" remain on the New York beat.

Anyone who remembers Steven Soderbergh's scalding war-on-drugs drama "Traffic" (a best picture Oscar nominee) 10 years ago will recognize the similarity as separate stories and characters merge.

Excellent actor Don Cheadle (an Oscar nominee for "Hotel Rwanda in '04) also strengthens the mental bridge as well.  Cheadle, one of the key characters in "Traffic," portrays undercover New York cop Clarence Butler, known as Tango on the streets in "Brooklyn's Finest."

Tango attempts the tough dance along the blurred line between good guys (police officers caring more about advancing than policing) and bad guys, including a loyal prison buddy and drug kingpin named Caz (Wesley Snipes).  

Fuqua, who directed Denzel Washington to a best actor Academy Award win as a conflicted cop in "Training Day" (2001), is not lacking for excellent talent.

Ethan Hawke, who appeared opposite Washington in "Training Day," is deeply troubled cop No. 2 and veteran actor Richard Gere takes on the role of serial suicide attempter Eddie Dugan.

Dugan, a beat cop who favors prostitutes and coke nose floats, has seven days remaining before retirement and his police pension.  Anyone who saw Morgan Freeman's performance in "Se7en" (1995), though, knows a lot can happen to a cop in a short stretch of days.

It doesn't help Dugan's chances any that he begins his day with a shot of Irish whiskey and a gun barrel pointed down his throat.  In this gritty world, Russian Roulette ranks as the new breakfast of champions.

Hawke, a Texas native, has the most success dissolving under the skin of his character.  Backed into a financial dilemma that's quite literally do-or-die, Hawke's Sal plays fast, loose and seriously stupid with police procedure, not to mention code of the mean streets.

If itchy trigger fingers, drug trafficking and frequent grisly violence bother you, there is no reason to waste your time or churning stomach on "Brooklyn's Finest."

From this aisle seat, it's a tough call.  Fuqua, a talented director when he's got a good script, has run into a sincere, but flawed one here with a bloodthirsty, lust-thirsty tone that overpowers some gifted actors (including Ellen Barkin as Agent Smith).

Overkill is the order of the day and night in this flawed, predictable, sometimes a little laughable crime-drama. 

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