Brooklyn's Finest Blu-ray Review
PictureBrooklyn's Finest comes to Blu-ray complete with a superb 1080p High Definition video presentation in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen. Detail is fantastic throughout, maintained across every single scene, irrespective of lighting. This is most noticeable on the faces where you can practically tell when the actors last shaved. There is no drop in clarity, no softness, no noticeable edge enhancement and no digital damage - the image basically coming across as near-perfect throughout. Ironically, the movie probably could have worked well with a persistent grain over it, Narc-style, but this clean-cut way works too. Colours remain strong throughout, again throughout the lighting scenarios, with skin tones coming across as natural and all of the locations looking authentic and genuine. There is a marginal issue with colour bleeding, the oppressive reds of the whorehouse having a slightly dodgy effect on Richard Gere's skin, but it is hard to believe that the Director did not notice this so, assuming he did notice it, it must have been intentional. It just looks a bit odd. Black levels are outstanding, again irrespective of the light levels. This is an outstanding film presentation that would be useful reference material were it not for the one or two strange moments (which could be chalked up to the Director's 'style) and for the fact that this just isn't the kind of movie which offers material that lends itself to showing off your home entertainment equipment.
SoundTo accompany Brooklyn's Finest we get a sturdy uncompressed PCM 5.1 mix which largely works well but does have a couple of noticeable flaws. This kind of police drama is mostly dialogue driven, peppered with some penetrating gunshots, and in this respect the mix only holds up half of its end. Whilst the moderate effects are presented excellently across the surrounds, whether the bustle of the panic-ridden streets or the wail of a police siren, the dialogue quality varies massively. At several points in the movie - most notably during the nightclub scene and also the drug den scene moments after Gere's first diatrible - the speech drops out almost entirely, the dialogue itself becoming pretty-much incomprehensible. I think that the reason for this can be gleaned from watching some of the deleted scenes, as originally the Director had intended these segments to have a voiceover (or a speech from the previous scene overlapping into the next one). Whilst he does maintain this style over some other segments, two main speeches are cut short (the full versions are shown in the deleted scenes) and, instead, the scenes are present in the movie with their original dialogue. In the instances shown, the dialogue is pure background hubbub: standard nightclub atmosphere and drug den mumbling, respectively. The words spoken aren't important to the story, but it is still irritating that they cannot fully be understood. Although this is not necessarily an issue with the recording of the track, it could have been resolved on the mix and the fact that it is not is a notch down to the audio. Still, as dark police thrillers go, this one gets a suitably moody and engaging mix, let down by only a couple of instances of dialogue that lacks prioritisation.
ExtrasFirst up we get a full-length Audio Commentary with the Director Antoine Fuqua. This is a very informative and largely refreshingly honest contribution, the Director really coming across as knowing his business, relating how he came across the project and put all of the players together, and then how he made it all come together in such an authentic location, with real ex-gangsters used to add to the realism. Fuqua can be a little too over-enthusiastic, his passion extremely potent when used right, but occasionally lapsing into what feels like self-congratulatory reflection. Still, a strong listen, worth checking out.
Basically the rest of the extras comprise two things: Featurettes and Deleted Scenes. The Featurettes are all of the same variety, differing merely in theme. Each one cobbles together a few behind the scenes shots with interview snippets from the cast and crew, and far too much final film footage. Even the actors tend to fall into type: Snipes can be quite refreshingly humorous and Gere's highbrow musings border on the good side of pretentious, but the Director, Fuqua, often seems to be glorifying his own work. Still, they are nice, honest little offerings. Unfortunately they are all far too short, generally in the range of 6-8 mins, which simply does not allow sufficient depth for them to be truly informative.
Chaos & Conflict: The Life of a New York Cop takes 7 minutes to look at the interweaving stories of the three very different cops, with comments from the director and the writer, and talk about how the actors brought something very individual to each role: changing the character to suit their personalities.
Boyz N The Real Hood spends 6 minutes looking at the choice of location, setting it in the projects and including many real street players in the cast, for authenticity. There's note here of the key players from The Wire who were included, as well as their fame on these streets from their performance in said show.
An Eye For Detail is a 6 minute Featurette all about the Director Antoine Fuqua, whose intensity, drive and passion is commented on by all of the praising main actors, with Fuqua himself talking about working with them all, in turn. There's a little too much back-patting going on here, but some nice sentiments still come across.
From the MTA to the WGA is a 6 minute Featurette about the first-time Writer, Michael Martin, and his own interesting origins as a toll booth operator who suffered an injury that gave him time to write his first screenplay for a competition. Martin himself seems like quite a genuine guy and talks about the shock of finding out that Fuqua wanted to Direct his work, and his disbelief at the famous names who were cast in the roles that he had written.
Three Cops and a Dealer is an 8 minute Character Profile which looks at the four main characters in turn, with comments from the respective actors about their own roles, and about the roles of their colleagues. Snipes comes across as both funny and humble, and a couple of the actors from The Wire - including Michael Kenneth Williams (who plays Omar, and grew up on the projects himself) - get to chip in about what they thought about working with the likes of Gere, Cheadle and Snipes.
We also get 31 minutes' worth of Deleted Footage, split into a half a dozen scenes. Most of the scenes included are extended versions of scenes from the film but, interestingly, they now have a continued voiceover from the previous scene. Personally I think these scenes work much better with the complete voiceover, and these extended scenes may indeed have helped push this good movie closer to being great. Unfortunately they are not presented in fantastic fashion, all having sub-par barely SD-DVD quality. There's a longer Gere monologue, when he's visiting with the prostitute, which overlaps the subsequent scenes to much greater effect than in its abridged version. Similarly there's a longer Snipes diatribe, where his dialogue overlaps the scene in the drug den, again to much better effect than in the final cut. We also get the full scene where Don Cheadle's character gets pulled over by a cop (Robert Burke in a tiny cameo). This was only shown in flashback form, and the full scene makes more sense. Ethan Hawke's character gets more screen-time here as well, having to go home to deal with a son who's suspended from school, and confess to his wife his recent actions. There's also a new scene with Snipes and Cheadle, which further promotes their bond of friendship. Finally we get two alternate endings, both offering up different codas which explain what happened to the characters. The first has a nice twist, which could have been left in, but the twist on the second is terrible, and would have made the film relentlessly depressing.
Finally we get the Theatrical Trailer, as well as some Preview Trailers, both ones accessible from the menu and ones that play on disc startup.
VerdictBrooklyn's Finest tells a powerful trifecta story about three different men in the same police precinct: the good cop compelled to do bad, the honest cop pretending to be bad and the ambivalent cop who finally gets his wake-up call. It's a decent Crash-style tale of disparate, seemingly unconnected individuals whose lives converge with violent results. Unfortunately, too many of these ideas have been seen before; most of the characters feel too familiar and clichéd, and so the end result will likely never be classed as 'great' or 'classic'. Nevertheless the underrated Ethan Hawke, the consistently great Don Cheadle and the underused Richard Gere - at his intense best - come together with a surprisingly good Wesley Snipes to provide a quartet of fantastic performances amidst an eclectic and authentic cast of familiar supporting characters. And with professional direction from Antoine Fuqua (who made his name on the similarly themed and arguably superior Training Day) the end result is still an unequivocally solid entry in the genre.
On Blu-ray we get excellent video and solid audio, as well as a mixed selection of extras in which the must-watch Deleted Scenes and competent Director's Commentary stand out. Fans should consider this a good edition to pick up, newcomers who like the genre - who like Donnie Brasco, Narc, Training Day, King of New York and multi-character stories like Crash - shouldn't hesitate in picking this up either. It may not do anything particularly new and it may not end up being all that memorable, but that does not make it any less enjoyable. Recommended.
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