Saturday, 5 October 2013

Brooklyn's Finest; Dragon Eyes


Brooklyn’s Finest

Antoine Fuqua’s 2001 entry Training Day was critically acclaimed, and Brooklyn’s Finest feels a lot closer to that film than to the likes of The Shooter and King Arthur that came in between.
This film is more of an ensemble piece, featuring three unhappy cops – one desperate to get out from his undercover assignment, one feeling the pressure of supporting a large family and the last a week from retirement with little to look forward to besides the pension.

The three leads are all solid performers, Richard Gere perhaps standing out as his look stops his character from feeling unlikeable. Whilst Don Cheadle and Ethan Hawke do a great job as the undercover cop and family man respectively, the plot trades on a lot of the usual fare found in cop dramas, though with slight twists in the ways the characters behave – Cheadle’s Tango is working undercover due to his ambition for a detective’s position, but when faced with ratting out gangster and friend Caz (Wesley Snipes back in a real film!) he’s conflicted. Hawke’s Sal is desperate for cash to get his growing family into a decent home, but his temptations to steal drug money are tempered by a serious dose of catholic guilt, and Gere’s Eddie is a cynical grump, but finds he is prepared to stick by his principles.

Well acted and cracking on at a fair pace, Fuqua’s Finest is an enjoyable if not particularly original.

Dragon Eyes

A man appears in a town in trouble, run by criminal gangs and corrupt cops, and turns them all against each other. It’s a new take on the tale told in films from Yojimbo to Last Man Standing, but despite the injection of a bit of martial arts action to try and make the tale stand out, overall the film is a bit of a dud.

A lot of the silences and meaningful looks fired out by lead Cung Le are no doubt meant to convey simmering tension, but ultimately end up pulling down the pace of the film to a trudge. Without any characterization of the lead beyond a smidge of flash-back-story, and the majority of the cast fitting the usual stereotypes of Latino, African-American and Eastern European gangs, the film has little to keep the audience interested in the story. Peter Weller is about the only stand out as the head of the town’s dirty cops, but even then in terms of his past performances it’s hardly a barnstormer.

This leaves a heavy burden on the action sequences, though hardly a surprise in a Van-Damme picture, but his part is a supporting role and only appears through flashbacks.
Unfortunately the choreography doesn’t shine, with a lot of the fights feeling like thumping matches when in fact they need to dazzle as they’re the only thing the film has going for it. With so many decent action films to choose from, be they East Asian martial arts pictures or the more recent Bourne-a-likes from Hollywood, Dragon Eyes doesn’t have anything to offer.

A shame as John Hyams’ 2009 film, Universal Soldier: Regeneration, was an interesting mash of odd, morose art-house tone matched with brutal, gritty violence and pointed at interesting possibilities.