By STEVE PERSALL
Times Film Critic
Brooklyn's Finest is a bit of a bargain, offering three trite cop dramas for the price of one. They're presented as parallel cliches, with the central antiheroes unaware of one another until fates collide in a climactic spasm of baloney.
Let's begin with Eddie (a miscast Richard Gere), the burned-out patrolman a week away from retiring. We meet Eddie when he awakens, swigs whiskey and sticks a gun in his mouth, mildly disappointed when the trigger goes click. Nothing picks up his spirits, not even frolicking with his favorite hooker, Chantel (Shannon Kane, whose wardrobe budget is next to nothing).
Then there's Tango (Don Cheadle), the undercover cop getting in too deep. He's trailing a drug ring led by charismatic Caz (Wesley Snipes, the best thing in the movie). Tango digs Caz's style, and he's frustrated that his promised gold detective's shield hasn't come. He wouldn't be tempted to jump sides, would he?
Finally, there's Sal (Ethan Hawke, who needs a shower), the jittery cop with a big family to support who's making ends meet by stealing drug money. Nothing good is going to come from that, I assure you. But you already guessed that.
Brooklyn's Finest staggers from one story to another, with only director Antoine Fuqua's penchant for heavy-caliber carnage keeping viewers awake. Head shots are his specialty, but any body region will do. The movie has been trimmed by 15 minutes from its Sundance debut a year ago; I'm certain that more talk was excised than action.
Along the way, fine acting talent is squandered. Vincent D'Onofrio (Law & Order: Criminal Intent) gets eliminated first, so he's the luckiest. Lili Taylor sticks around for the duration as Sal's annoyingly domestic wife. Ellen Barkin pops in a couple of times as an NYPD muckety-muck, squinting like she left her glasses at home and snarling threats of someone losing his badge.
We've seen it all before, too many times and usually much better. At least Fuqua's movie is unintentionally funny, as opposed to Cop Out, which plays standard operating police movie procedure for laughs and fails.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs.tampabay.com/movies.