Latest Reviews

Entries in Ethan Hawke (7)

Friday
Mar052010

Brooklyn's Finest

It's been eight years since director Antoine Fuqua brought us Training Day, the gritty crime drama that netted Denzel Washington his second Oscar. In between that terrific film, he has helmed a few pictures that have been hit and miss among fans and critics, Tears of the Sun and Shooter among them. Now it seems as if he's trying to strike gold twice with Brooklyn's Finest, which can only be described as Training Day-lite. While this movie deals with some similar issues (and even goes so far as to cast Denzel's counterpart in that film, Ethan Hawke), it's unfocused, meandering and it tries to justify evil if the end result is good, which I would hope any moral, upstanding citizen could see the hypocrisy in.

The film follows a number of cops as they deal with crime in Brooklyn. Hawke plays Sal, a dirty cop trying to pay for a new home for his family, Richard Gere plays Eddie, a suicidal police officer only a week away from retirement, and Don Cheadle plays Tango, an undercover cop who finds himself struggling with his allegiance because he has a duty to bring down the bad guys, but one of those bad men by the name of Caz, played by Wesley Snipes, previously saved his life and he refuses to bust him. A dirty cop, an undercover cop and a cop one week away from retirement. It's three cliches rolled into one.

The three stories do intersect at times, however rarely that may be, but I suspect the physical intersections are not the crutch of the movie, but rather the way each character's emotions get in the way of their true goals. In that regard, they all find themselves in the same boat, yet their stories play out so differently that that argument would be hard to make.

The most irksome part of Brooklyn's Finest, however, is its portrayal of these men as good men despite the evil things they have done or, in some cases, are doing. As previously mentioned, Sal can't afford a new home for his family. He has a wife and a couple of children and twins are on the way. The house they live in is encompassed with rotting wood and his wife's lungs are working three times the amount they should be due to her asthma and her breathing in mold. He needs to get them out of there. I understood this hardship and I felt for him, but the way he gets things done is inexcusable. He murders drug runners and steals their money. The film tries to make the case that there's nothing else this man can do and besides, he's killing bad guys so it's ok, right?

Eddie, on the other hand, is a cop who turns the other way when bad things go down. Early in the movie, he's on patrol with a rookie cop and the young man tries to break up a dispute between a feuding couple after the man slaps the woman. This is the right thing to do, but Eddie pulls him away and they drive off. He tells him to think nothing of it and just go home. Of course, Eddie has a change of heart by the end of the movie, but one good action does not forgive his years of neglection.

This happens with damn near every character. The film puts them on a pedestal and tries to rationalize their way of being. It doesn't work and instead of feeling for the hardships these characters are going through, I ended up loathing them all. None deserved my sympathy.

I suppose Brooklyn's Finest is technically a well made film. Fuqua directs it competently and the performances, though hit and miss at times, are far from bad, but its the twisted vindication the picture gives each character that really derails it. It tries to ask questions about what is considered right and wrong, but what's right and wrong doesn't change simply because the situation you're in calls for it to. Wrong is wrong no matter the predicament.

Brooklyn's Finest receives 2/5

Monday
Jan112010

Daybreakers

There was a time when vampires used to be the epitome of cool. There was a time when Blade ruled the box office with its hard R rating, providing plenty of action and blood for fans. There was a time when vampires weren't reduced to frilly angst ridden teenagers entwined in a romantic love triangle with a self-pitying high school girl and shirtless werewolf. I remember those times. Oh, how I miss them. Vampires used to be scary, stalkers of the night out for the blood of unsuspecting humans. Now they sparkle when they walk in the sun. Thankfully, nay, blessedly, Daybreakers is here to set things straight. While it may be coming at an unfortunate time, in the wake of those silly Twilight movies, it's nevertheless a riotous good time.

The year is 2019. Due to a single bat with a strange virus, a plague of vampirism has spread across the world like a wildfire. Now, less than five percent of the population is human. Everybody else has turned into a demon of the night, but things still run as usual. They still go to work, drink coffee (with blood instead of cream) and drive and the television politics still rage on. The only difference is that they do it all at night and the political arguments are about the extermination of the human race. During the day, the world is one giant ghost town, which proves to be a perfect opportunity for the last remaining humans to venture outside in search of other humans. Edward (not to be confused with that pale skinned, love sick ninny), played by Ethan Hawke, a vampire himself, runs into a group of them one day on his way home from work. Although they threaten to kill him, he has no desire to feed on them and helps them instead. He's one of those human-hugging types. Hippie.

He does this despite a global shortage of blood. In fact, in another few weeks, the last remaining human harvests will dry up and the vampires will all go mad feeding on each other, which will increase the rate of their deterioration until they all finally die. However, those humans have found a cure for vampirism thanks to a former vampire called Elvis, played by Willem Dafoe, and they enlist Edward in their attempt to save not only themselves, but the whole world.

Not since 2000's Shadow of the Vampire, which also starred Willem Dafoe, have I seen such a unique vampire movie. Finally a film comes along that dares to switch up the tried and true formula. It takes the basic concept of vampires feeding on humans and flips it around. What if there were no humans left to feed on? The premise is intriguing and an interesting commentary on our dwindling resources with our growing population. Who knew a bloody horror flick could be so smart?

But then again, it's not like I had my brain tuned to "think" when I sat down to watch Daybreakers. All I really wanted was a slickly done vampire movie with humor and gore and that's what I got. After watching Twilight and New Moon, where the only pain inflicted on anyone was purely on an emotional level, it was nice to see some pain transcend to the physical realm. This thing gets red with some excellent moments I didn't see coming, including a hilarious vampire combustion that had me cackling with glee.

What I came out of Daybreakers surprised about, however, was that the film was actually made well. A horror movie not screened for critics being released in the theatrical dump month of January? There's no way it could be good, right? Wrong. The Spierig brothers, the directors, whose only other feature length film was the 2003 straight-to-DVD horror/comedy Undead (which was pretty damn awesome if you ask me), showcase some skill here. Whereas Undead was fun, but amateur, Daybreakers promises better things to come in the duo's future. It's slyly directed and the little attention to details makes for a pleasurable experience.

Even more impressive is that they wrote the picture as well, toning down their jocular tone from Undead to make a more mature horror/drama. With the sole exception of Willem Dafoe's character, who spouts some really dumb one-liners that feel out of place in an otherwise rock solid picture, the writing is spectacular. It doesn't explain everything, but it doesn't need to. It's not about how it happens. It's merely about what happens and why. Though I fear putting these two films side by side may confuse the levels of their quality, this film is like The Road in that it's more of a warning than anything else. It intends not to show the causes of certain situations, but rather create an allegory revolving around them that can be related to real life.

Now, Daybreakers is no Oscar contender like The Road, but not every movie has to be some amazing display of filmmaking to be entertaining. Despite combining quality acting with a clever script and skillful direction, this is really nothing more than a fun romp at the movies. Given the quality of films usually released in this month, what more could you ask for?

Daybreakers receives 4/5

Page 1 2