Abandon all hope—and prepare for an instant classic of bad-cop-no-donut cinema. Director Antoine Fuqua quickly establishes the predicaments of his three main characters: Tango (Don Cheadle), deep undercover, masterminds a massive drug transfer; Sal (Ethan Hawke) shoots the face off a scumbag colleague (Vincent D’Onofrio) and then takes a bag of dirty money; Eddie (Richard Gere) wakes up and sticks a gun in his own mouth, in what’s apparently a daily ritual-cum-rehearsal. It all happens in about the first 10 minutes, and it’s all in a day’s work for Brooklyn’s Finest.
Audiences have witnessed similar no-exit scenarios, and there will no doubt be the usual complaints involving the intent behind and intensity of the race-related violence (a scene involving a white female sex-slave, drugged and handcuffed by sadistic black men, is particularly suspect). But the film’s remarkable cast helps Fuqua bring his sprawling web of nastiness to another level. The actors seem as determined to survive the production as their characters are to merely survive. The talent of Gere, Hawke, and Cheadle, not to mention Wesley Snipes and Ellen Barkin—the latter in a particularly bravura performance of repellent behavior as a fed—bring depth, complexity, and most important, sympathy to characters who simply don’t deserve it. Gere, most notably, moves through the film with a Zen-like focus that recalls Takeshi Kitano at his stoic-yet-lovable best.