Thursday, 10 June 2010

Brooklyn's Finest: this commercial was brought to you by The Mob

Yesterday was one of those very long days at the end of which I always think that it would be just perfect if God would give me an AK and an endless clip and look the other way for a little bit while I made his creation somewhat less stupid than it is. Sadly, God and I don't see eye to eye on this topic, and I'm left to go to the movies and try to take my mind off how stupid people are in reality by looking at how much more stupid actors are.

Pickings are thin in these parts and I had to make a fast decision (with the day being so damn long and all) among three movies; Brooklyn's Finest, The Killer Inside Me and Bad Lieutenant. Now, I knew that The Killer Inside Me was going to be pretty damn grim and I can't imagine the day dawning when it seems to me like a chuckle fest to watch Casey Affleck pound Jessica Alba to mush. And I've clocked up nearly fifty years on this planet without watching a Werner Herzog movie, let alone a Werner Herzog movie about a self-destructive lunatic played by Nicholas Cage. So, God help me, it seemed to me at six in the evening after a day when I honestly thought that the collective IQ of the legal profession had finally found a way to move into imaginary numbers, that of what was on offer, Brooklyn's Finest looked like my best shot at some mindless fun.

God help me, I was still probably right, given the choices, but Brooklyn's Finest is a pretty grim couple of hours. As the movie slowly pushed its pieces into play, I was sitting there thinking "How long has it been since I went to a cop movie?" and then realising that serialised TV has pretty much killed cop movies as something I can be bothered with. Last year - or the year before, it could be - I went to see Street Kings, because you don't often get the chance to see a screenplay that James Ellroy was involved with, and when the Departed came out, I went to see it so that I could say dismissive things about how much better Infernal Affairs was. The fact is that a movie can't establish character and place the way that something like the Wire did.

Which doesn't stop Antoine Fuqua from trying. Fuqua made some money a while ago making Training Day with Denzel and Ethan Hawke, and he actually managed to get Ethan to show up again for his second attempt to undercut the public faith in the integrity of US law enforcement. Unlike Training Day, Brooklyn's Finest doesn't have a magnificent monster at the heart of it. It's got Richard Gere, playing a mope, Ethan playing a dope, and Don Cheadle playing an undercover officer who's losing his way. All three of them are in over their heads, and in a rather contrived way, their paths are woven into each other so that they come together for the climax. Structurally there's a big problem because their paths stay pretty much separate until then, and they're not really complementary. Any of the three dilemmas would have made a perfectly good movie on its own or a character arc for TV, but wedging all three into a single two hour movie's not a great plan.

My favourite Antoine Fuqua movie is the riotously stupid Replacement Killers, and of what I've seen, my least favourite is Shooter , simply because it makes a mess out of a perfectly good Stephen Hunter novel for no readily apparent reason. Brooklyn's Finest is just meh. It's not a bad film, but it's nothing you'd recommend to anyone else to watch, or want to see again. It does its job well, given the problems which the script impose, but it's doing something which movies are no longer the best form.

What's almost shocking is the way it makes New York look like the third world. Not really like the third world, but compared to America's usual face in the movies. The last time I saw the US look this doomed and down at heel it was in Roger and Me when Michael Moore showed us what Flint Michigan had become after its economy collapsed. Brooklyn actually looks worse than Flint; and this is a neighborhood of a city which still thinks of itself as the unofficial capital of the planet.

Brooklyn's Finest is not alone among American movies in making law enforcement personnel seem dumb, self serving and pointless, but I think it's the first one I've seen that makes being a policeman look like the worst possible career decision you could take short of becoming a free lance bungee jumper in a world which has yet to discover elastic. Day to day life as a policeman is shown as dull, dangerous, and incredibly badly paid work performed either out on streets full of people who hate you, or in police buildings which look as though the fire brigade put out major fires there six years ago and no-one's tidied up since. By the time the movie concluded, my only possible explanation was that the movie had been bankrolled by the Mafia in the hope of putting people off considering police work while there were still openings in comparatively lucrative and comfortable careers like begging for devalued pocket change in middle eastern warzones or licking decommissioned nuclear reactors clean in the Ukraine for time-expired cans of pet-food and all the radioactive sludge you could drink.

The film ends with a shot of Richard Gere's exhausted face heading off into the dusk at the end of a final crappy day on the job, and if Fuqua stays true to form, Gere will be back in about nine years for another movie about the misery of law enforcement, which I have tentatively entitled Brooklyn's Finest-er II the Enfinening Boogaloo. Of course, on what we've just been shown of the US, nine years from now it may not be possible to make a movie in Brooklyn without Hazmat suits, Blackwater mercenary contractor cameramen and overhead Predator drone cover.

In other news, I keep seeing the trailer for Predators, which has Walton Goggins deliver the immortal line "I was supposed to be executed two days ago". I don't think I've ever seen Walton Goggins play a character who shouldn't have been executed two days ago.

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