Antoine Fuqua's sprawling "Brooklyn's Finest" covers a range of moods and emotions effectively but not always intentionally. Nail-biting and knuckle-headed, violent and vapid, subtle and stupid, this frustrating
potboiler teeters on the verge of top-notch entertainment but, like the rookie blues who keep showing up for duty, it constantly pulls the wrong move at exactly the wrong time.
Fuqua, whose 2001 "Training Day" was a superior piece of pulp that cranked up Denzel Washington to a rare (and Oscar-winning) fever pitch, still knows how to stage a fantastic bloodbath. There are scenes of close combat, point-blank blasts and eerily quiet aftermaths that still vibrate with danger. The script, by first-timer Michael C. Martin, also has moments of gripping
dialogue, with some of the best lines delivered in bedrooms, not locker rooms.
The characters and the performances, however, are largely cliches. Ethan Hawke plays Sal Procida, a corrupt cop consumed by guilt, as though this were "Hamlet." Don Cheadle does his soulful-eyes routine as an undercover agent nicknamed Tango. Most convincing is Richard Gere as Eddie Dugan, a creaky beat cop who began dreaming of retirement years ago.
The best performances come from unexpected quarters. Wesley Snipes, missing from the screen for years while facing tax troubles, returns in fine form as a flinty-eyed drug-dealer. Shannon Kane, a newcomer playing Dugan's hooker-girlfriend, speaks little but scores two of the film's standout scenes - one stomach-turning, the other heartbreaking.
The three separate plots are "intertwined," which basically means people bump into each other going into the same bodega. That's precious little glue to hold together a two-hour film, and even Fuqua's flashy style can't cover up the cracks.