Derivative screenplay sinks Brooklyn’s Finest

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Screenwriter Michael C. Martin’s success story is the kind that makes entertainment writers salivate and less successful screenwriters gnash their envious teeth. The film student and former subway worker wrote the script for this cop movie while recovering from a car wreck. He entered it in a contest, and it was picked up by an L.A. producer and bought by Millennium Films, which hired the talented Antoine Fuqua, director of Training Day, which Brooklyn’s Finest resembles in theme and casting. The movie also got a terrific cast including Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Training Day’s Ethan Hawke and the long-absent Wesley Snipes. The story traces the fates of three cops confronted with the temptations of corruption: Clarence (Cheadle), working undercover and longing for a desk job, offered at the cost of sacrificing a drug kingpin (Snipes) he’s befriended; Sal (Hawke), a cash-strapped, devoutly Catholic family man lured by piles of confiscated drug money; and Eddie (Gere), a burned-out cop nearing retirement. The parts are meaty enough to show off the excellent cast, and Fuqua’s techniques are impressive. Unfortunately, the extreme bloodiness and predictable, derivative screenplay — Gere’s canoodling with a prostitute he wants to take away from it all provoked preview-audience titters — compromises his best efforts. ** 1/2

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