Sometimes wanting to do the right thing just isn't enough. And three cops from East Brooklyn's 65th precinct know that better than most.
Take Sal Procida, for example. He's a respected narcotics officer with a wife and seven kids who's trying to get by on the pittance he gets paid. But he's got to get his family out of their tiny, mold-ridden house before it kills them all. It's just not fair! The drug-pushing lowlifes he's tasked with collaring have cash coming out of their ears and a good cop can't scrape together enough for a down payment on a decent house.
Then there's Eddie Dugan, a burned-out uniformed policeman just trying to make it through his last week on the job. But his self-defined pointless existence and numbing alcoholism are filling him with an overpowering urge to jam his service pistol into his mouth. And that would seriously hurt his chances of reaching retirement.
Clarence "Tango" Butler, meanwhile, has been undercover so long that it's cost him his marriage and possibly his sanity. He's starting to think like … be like these hard case drug dealers he's been living with. Is there no way out? Will he have to betray a friendship and sacrifice someone else's life just to regain his own?
The separate struggles of these three men are about to intertwine. And figuring out the right thing, the right choice, will be harder than ever.
Brooklyn's Finest tends to hide its positives in a deep swamp of ugly visuals and deadly choices. Closest to the murky surface is the fact that the NYPD officers put their lives on the line to battle an overwhelming criminal element. And the three central characters, in particular, all have a sense of morality that they struggle with. (They're also racist, foul-mouthed and corrupt, though. More on that later.)
Eddie feels that his actions truly don't make a difference, but he still does his best to calm potentially volatile public conflicts. He sets out to rescue a missing girl. And he tries to make a human connection with Chantel, one of the only people he knows outside of work. (But she's a prostitute. More on that later, too.)
Sal tries to be as good and loving a father to his kids as possible. And his end goal is a good one. (But he tries to reach that end by becoming a thief and killer. Yep, you guessed it. More on that later.)
Tango went undercover to serve his city and free it from a rampaging drug problem. Ronny is a solid guy who continually encourages his friend Sal to turn from focusing only on his problems and, instead, begin to value what he already has.
It's obvious that Sal is suffering as his faith clashes with his sinful actions. But while at confession, he balks at the priest's suggestion that he pray for God's forgiveness. "Is it possible that God isn't carrying His end of the bargain?" the frustrated cop asks. "I don't want God's forgiveness. I want His f‑‑‑ing help!" Later he watches expressionlessly as his two young daughters pray before bed. And he tells his teen daughter to change her short skirt by saying he doesn't want people to "think we're only Catholic on Sunday."
When Sal is planning to steal drug money, Ronny tells him not to sacrifice the blessing of his family. "Go home and thank God for all you got." As Sal moves forward with his plans anyway, he prays for God's aid.
A picture of Jesus, crosses and other Catholic symbols appear on necklaces, tattoos or in homes.
There's a shameful rawness to the sexual depictions in this film, even by "modern" R-rated standards. Chantel's "occupation" gets explicit screen time. There are three drawn-out scenes—two involving Eddie—that include breast nudity, fondling, the sounds and movements of oral sex and intercourse, and raw sexual language. At one point the camera looks on as a naked Chantel casually converses with Eddie while cleaning herself after an encounter.
Four or five times audiences are drawn into strip clubs and gang cribs where topless or fully nude women dance, walk around and embrace/make out with/kiss various men. The camera scans a line of near-naked strippers undulating on a stage. Bikini-clad waitresses serve tables.
A naked man walks out of a room and heads across the hall to a shower after sexually abusing three women. (We don't see the assault.) He returns wrapped in a towel.
A point-blank gun-shot-to-the-chest murder gets the grisly action started. Throughout the rest of the film, police smash down doors and splatter the walls with blood as they shoot drug dealers with shotguns and pistols. Two cops also perpetrate unsanctioned killings either for revenge or theft.
Gang violence is openly on display, too, from gory murders to dead bodies left in a park. Several men beat and bloody a young boy who they think ratted them out to the police. They slam his face down, pistol whip him and threaten to throw him off a rooftop.
Women are slapped and violently manhandled. Sal gets angry at a colleague's racist comments and punches the man in the face several times.
One of the most disturbing scenes features girls who have been physically enslaved and sexually abused. Eddie moves to rescue one and instead finds three battered, drugged and semi-naked young women chained and awaiting their tormentor. Before it's over, Eddie has to take on a large assailant who batters and bloodies him. The bad guy gets shot in the chest and choked with an oversized zip tie.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Pretty much everyone smokes. Sal chain-smokes. Eddie tries to dull his inner demons with alcohol. And we see him down a glass of whiskey just before placing an unloaded gun in his mouth in a kind of suicide "dry run." Eddie also does coke with his prostitute companion. We see her snort a line.
In the opening moments of Brooklyn's Finest, a street-savvy pair animatedly discuss the gray area of life's choices. The "righter" and "wronger" of things, as it's put. The film then weaves its way through a week in the lives of its three policeman protagonists, exploring their righter and wronger struggles—the narc who will steal and kill for his family's sake; the undercover officer who longs to protect his pusher friend; the broken-down street cop who wrestles with suicide.
It could be said that within those tugs and pulls Training Day director Antoine Fuqua is creating social commentary about power and corruption; about the bad choices he believes must be made to preserve a greater good.
Thanks to the dank, dismal, destructive world he creates here, though, most moviegoers won't be dumping their popcorn bucket and walking out of the theater deep in thought. More likely they'll be reeling from the gory and raw muck they just spent two hours wallowing in. Brooklyn's Finest is foul in nearly every way possible. It's teeth-clinchingly vulgar, viciously brutal, hopelessly depressing, sexually reprehensible and ultimately a one-dimensional grind.