By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 18, 2009 at 3:01AM
Arriving at Sundance weighted with expectations, Brooklyn's Finest is a creative noble failure, one of those damn-the-torpedoes passion projects that flounders on its own ambition. Ex-Warners exec Basil Iwanyk developed the script by Michael C. Martin and brought in director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), but when Warner Bros. passed, the filmmakers raised financing through Avi Lerner's Millenium Films. Fuqua made the movie on location in Brooklyn for something under $20 million with a strong cast: Don Cheadle, Richard Gere, Wesley Snipes, Ellen Barkin and Ethan Hawke, who is stellar.
The movie, shot by Patrick Murghuia, is stunning to look at. Fuqua takes full advantage of Brooklyn and his actors, weaving three stories of three very different cops all heading for disaster. It's an unrelievedly grim portrait of the world, without a ray of hope. The movie played to a mixed response, with both hisses and applause after the finale. (There is some discussion of serious trimming of the 125-minute movie, including the ending, which was not the one originally intended by the writer.) Every buyer was there, from Fox Searchlight (which won't deal with its SAG waiver issue until it has a film it wants to buy), Overture and Summit to Roadside, Senator and Miramax.
Spike Lee, feeling chipper about his first screening of his film version of the Broadway show Passing Strange (IFC is circling), turned up at the Brooklyn's Finest screening in a white fur hat to "represent Brooklyn," he said, and support "my man Wesley Snipes." His Jungle Fever star, who has suffered career turmoil, is fine in Brooklyn's Finest, and was pleased that Lee turned up. It's Snipes' second Sundance, he said; he came back in 1997 to support Mike Figgis's One Night Stand. At the after-party when a flack pressed Snipes to pose for a picture holding Robert Redford's new Sundance brand pink drink, Snipes asked if he could taste it first. That's Sundance in a nutshell.
At the Q & A, Fuqua said, "It's Greek Tragedy, opera. More police die from killing themselves than die in the line of duty. I thought I would explore that." Meanwhile the director is prepping two possible next projects: a biopic of New York mobster and FBI informant Gregory Scarpa, and Escobar, about the Columbian cocaine trafficker.
CAA and WMA are selling Brooklyn's Finest; I suspect buyers will check out more films before circling back. Sales will probably heat up at the end of the weekend.
[Originally appeared on Variety.com]