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I'm a longtime contributor to MTV, Billboard, Alternative Press and MovieWeb. I've worked as on-air reporter, host, writer and producer for MTV, MSNBC and E!. I have provided opinion and commentary to programs on VH1, IFC, G4, Fuse, Current and Oxygen. I have written for Huffington Post, Premiere, OC Weekly, SFGate.com, NextMovie.com, MTV's television and movie blogs and other publications. I am the founder of Superhero Productions, providing broadcast, online and aftermarket content for a number of clients including Lionsgate, Sony and Warner Bros. I personally handle artist management for a handful of bands. "Ryan Downey has established a history of breaking some good scoops in the last few years, and you could certainly do worse than bookmark [him] to check in on." -- Ain't It Cool

Monday, March 15, 2010

Movie Review: "Brooklyn's Finest"

Directed By: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Don Cheadle, Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes
3 Stars

You've seen this movie -- separate but equally gritty stories set on the mean streets of New York that eventually and inevitably intersect -- before. And while it's been done better, it hasn't been done quite like this in a while. And while it's not quite the movie it wants to be, "Brooklyn's Finest" benefits greatly from a stellar cast and the director of "Training Day"'s undeniable gift for gripping the audience.

"Brooklyn's Finest" works wonderfully (for at least two thirds of its overly long running time) as a slice-of-life drama about three very different cops dealing with distinct moral dilemmas of their own making.

As a drug-busting cop with an ever expanding family who can't afford to move out of their cramped / mold infested home, Ethan Hawke carries himself like a cross between someone from "The Departed," "Mystic River" and "Boondock Saints" (although I heard it said recently that his character is actually Italian. Hmm). Hawke is great at looking weathered, stressed and beaten down. He’s an actor that really plays against his looks, which is always worthy of respect. His character's choices, 'though often bad, feel real. He's a good guy doing some bad things for mostly good reasons.

Cheadle is given some of the film’s worst dialog, but he’s such an incredible talent that he’s able to rise above it. It’s a bit hard at times to buy him as a hardened drug dealer, but I suppose that adds to the tension, since he’s really an undercover cop anyway. Cheadle is deep undercover (too deep) with a crew of drug dealers and given the unenviable task of setting up a close friend who once saved his life.

As that friend, a recently sprung drug dealer, Wesley Snipes is basically Nino from "New Jack City" with a pony-tail, but boy, he’s fantastic. I think we’ve all forgotten what an intense and incredible actor Snipes can be. "Brooklyn’s Finest" really gives him an opportunity to shine.

In the film's only casting misstep, Richard Geere gives a workmanlike performance as a washed up cop but the guy is just so damn handsome that it’s hard to believe he could be so lonely and so desperate that even a hooker won’t date him.

Most critics have said that "Brooklyn's Finest" falls apart in the third act and while I tend to agree, I still found the film to be much stronger than most as a whole. Fuqua's style is so engaging that you often forget you're watching a movie at all. I did get the impression that everyone involved envisioned something slightly better than what they got, but I suppose that's the case for each of the movie's characters, too. Maybe there's a message hidden within the film's own unevenness there.

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