Brooklyn's Finest (18)

The title, bleak with irony, refers to three Brooklyn cops whose individual stories crisscross through Antoine Fuqua's violent and overlong study of moral squalor.

As in his Training Day, the emphasis is on the dark side of the law. Ethan Hawke is a Catholic family man so desperate to make ends meet he gets his hands dirty with stolen drug money. Richard Gere plays an old soak steeped in self-loathing, with seven days to go before retirement. Don Cheadle, the most convincing of the trio, is an undercover narcs cop masquerading as a local gangsta, and twisted up with vying loyalties. There are impressive things here, including a supporting cast that lend texture to the ominous mood: Wesley Snipes plays a hot-out-of-jail drug baron who once saved Cheadle's life, and Ellen Barkin is a hard-ass high-up in the Brooklyn force. Writer Michael C Martin is good on the gangsta patter ("What kinda whip you pushin' round?" translates as "What car are you driving?"), though it must be said that his three main characters hardly deviate from stock – corrupt cop, divided cop, burnt-out cop – and nor does the plot. Sidney Lumet has written the book on these tragic blues; this just looks like the knock-off paperback.