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GRADE: D 'Brooklyn's Finest' goes from bad to worse

Peter Mongillo
In 'Brooklyn's Finest,' Richard Gere plays a police officer who's seven days from retirement. The film also stars Jesse Williams.

During an early scene in "Brooklyn's Finest," the latest from "Training Day" and "Shooter" director Antoine Fuqua, burned-out New York City policeman Eddie (Richard Gere) is jolted from sleep by an alarm clock. Rising from a sheetless bed, he pours a glass of liquor, puts a gun in his mouth and pulls the trigger. It doesn't fire.

A few scenes later we learn that Eddie is only seven days from retirement, and he's trying to keep his head down to avoid any last-minute bad luck. We never learn what it is that he's been through in his years on the force. Rather, Fuqua seems to assume that by piling one cop movie cliché on another, we'll just know that whatever he's been through, it's bad.

So goes the rest of the film, which chronicles a week in the life of Eddie and two other Brooklyn policemen: undercover Tango (Don Cheadle) and the desperate Sal (Ethan Hawke). A host of other familiar faces fill out the cast, including Wesley Snipes as the fresh-out-of-prison drug boss Caz and Lili Taylor as Sal's pregnant wife. About half the actors from "The Wire" are there, too, but don't go expecting to see the Omar and Wee-Bey you know and love from David Simon's epic crime drama.

Instead, what we get is Cheadle throwing down awkward lines like "these streets have an expiration date." His character is deep undercover — he even went to prison — but we never see him divulge any information about the drug operation for which he works. Part of the what audiences love about "The Wire" or even gangster movies like "Goodfellas" are the procedural aspects of the plot. We get to see how the criminals do what they do and how the police try to catch them. The closest "Finest" comes to that is a few kicked-in doors leading to some bloody shoot-outs, but it's never clear how any of the players got from point A to point B.

The two other plotlines don't fare much better. Gere's lonely character turns to hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold Chantel (Shannon Kane) for affection, and the result is a cringe-inducing sex scene. Hawke is similarly uncomfortable to watch as he panics for most of the film, trying to steal enough drug money to buy a new house for his wife, who's sick from the mold in their current home.

It's unclear how many children the couple already have, with a new one appearing in every scene. The final tally is somewhere between six and 10. It would be funny if it weren't supposed to be so serious.

It appears that Fuqua's intent was to undermine the good guy/bad guy dichotomy so often present in crime films. From the beginning, we're told there is no right and wrong, only "righter and wronger." Fine, but in order for that to work, we need to care about the characters.

Rating: Rated R for bloody violence throughout, strong sexuality, nudity, drug content and pervasive language. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes. Theaters: Barton Creek, Cinemark Cedar Park, Cinemark Galleria, Cinemark Round Rock, Cinemark Southpark Meadows, Gateway, Highland, Lakeline, Tinseltown South, Tinseltown Pflugerville, Westgate.