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Brooklyn’s Finest

Year: 2009
Production Co: Millenium Films
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writer: Michael C Martin
Cast: Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke, Don Cheadle, Wesley Snipes, Vincent D'Onofrio, Will Patton, Ellen Barkin

On the DVD extras to Independence Day, writer and producer Dean Devlin explained how because the film was using so much military hardware, his job was to make access to it easy by enlisting the support of the real military. But because they wouldn't remove references to Area 51, the military pulled all their support.

History shows us Fox stumped up enough money to smooth the way for Devlin and director Roland Emmerich anyway, but it occurred to me while watching Brooklyn's Finest to wonder what the real NYPD thinks about films like this that cast cops as flawed human beings like the rest of us instead of the caring, badge-wielding heroes all police officers were characterised as following September 11th, 2001. If there's the equivalent of a film liaison office somewhere in the NYPD administration, they must get upset.

The structure and narrative approach are fairly simple but the execution makes this a great gritty cop drama. It follows three very different cops in the tough New York district of the title.

Eddie (Gere) is days away from retirement and has seen too many bad things to care about people any more. He's assigned to show new recruits around the neighbourhood and their idealism just rubs him the wrong way.

Sal (Hawke) is a loving family man having a hard time ignoring the temptation of all the illegal money that goes through his hands in local drug busts. His wife is suffering allergies because of their mouldy house and he can't afford to move, so he hatches a scheme to lift some filthy lucre to buy his way out of trouble.

Clarence (Cheadle) has spent years in deep cover as part of a drug empire, good friends with the recently-released kingpin (Snipes) but who can't continue and demands his handler (Patton) extract him before he loses his humanity or his life.

We move from one story to another and the three come together at the end in only the most tenuous of links but which leads to the bloodiest of climaxes that will see most of the main characters dead. It's grimy, nasty, realistic and really well done, with shades of Narc and even The French Connection.

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