Brooklyn’s Finest (US, 2009)

When the finest aren't good enough

It’s a problem inherent in genre: how do you reinvigorate tropes? It’s a problem inherent in getting older: you’ve ‘seen it all’ before. Brooklyn’s Finest resolves the ‘staleness’ problem by using a Crash-like narrative, though restricts it to three strands, to follow a burned-out cop approaching retirement (Gere), a corrupt young cop trying to do the best for his family (Ethan Hawke), and an undercover cop whose loyalties are divided (Don Cheadle). Each narrative has been squeezed for its drama many times but combining the three, with such brilliant performances and exemplary direction from Antoine Fuqua, offers a fresh and gripping experience.

Brooklyn’s Finest passed under my radar when it was released two years ago but it is a terrific film. Whilst there are crowd-pleasing action sequences, Fuqua shoots the SWAT teams’ brilliantly, the focus is more on the characters’ dilemmas. In addition to the star power mentioned above, there’s a chilling cameo from Ellen Barkin and great character work from Will Patton and Brian F O’Byrne.

 

 

Exit Through the Gift Shop (UK, 2010)

Truth or dare you to believe

It’s rare, in these interconnected days, to watch a something that is you find doubtful and not be able to checik out whether it is true or not. This documentary is about a video-maker (well he videoed but didn’t edit) who becomes the artist Mr Brain Wash (MBW) and produces a hit contemporary art show based on other people creating what he tells them. It all might actually be true… though the idea that a non-artist can manufacture a hit show is surely too ridiculous to be true; or is it?  A cursory delve into the internet was inconclusive: it might be true, it might not.

Whatever, it is entertaining and I liked MBW’s art, much as I like Banksy’s, who’s probably the actual brain behind the film. Just as Banksy’s street art challenges the notions of institutionalised art, this documentary challenges the veracity of documentary. It’s certainly not the first to do so, I was reminded of Welles’ F for Fake (1972), but it makes its point (whatever it is) with elan.