What makes the film unique is its triangulated plotline which keeps its three strands fairly insulated from each other until the dramatic conclusion when the protagonists’ paths finally cross.
One story examines the escalating misfortunes of Sal Procida (Ethan Hawke), an NYPD officer corrupted not so much by greed as by a need to provide for his growing family on a cop’s salary. His house is not only too small for four kids, but his asthmatic wife (Lily Taylor) is pregnant again, and with twins to boot.
The second tale focuses on the equally-desperate plight of Tango Butler (Don Cheadle) a detective who is so deep undercover that it’s taken a toll on his personal life. He begs his boss (Will Patton) for a desk job, but is referred to FBI Agent Smith (Ellen Barkin), a racist who makes that reassignment contingent on his entrapping ex-con Casanova Phillips (Wesley Snipes). But because Caz once saved his life, Tang is very reluctant to set up the sting.
Finally, there’s Eddie Dugan (Richard Gere), a jaded alcoholic just a week away from retirement. He’s become so blasé he won’t even bother to arrest a perpetrator unless the crime is being committed in his precinct. Separated from his wife, Eddie has been investing emotionally in Chantel (Shannon Kane), the proverbial prostitute with a heart of gold and man-pleasing lips. The tension in this unseemly scenario is wound around the question of whether Chantel is willing to let Eddie make an honest woman out of her.
Eventually, all roads in this cleverly-concealed caper serendipitously lead to some godforsaken projects in Brownsville where live ammo is routinely employed as the ghetto equivalent of a calling card. Bloody beyond compare, but definitely riveting for the duration provided you’re willing to duck a few bullets.
An amoral morality play delivering the sobering message that crime does not pay, not even for dirty cops.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for nudity, graphic sexuality, pervasive profanity, ethnic slurs, drug use and gory violence.
Running time: 132 Minutes
Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment
DVD Extras: Audio commentary with director Antoine Fuqua; “Chaos and Conflict: The Life of a New York Cop”; “Boyz ‘N the Real Hood”; “An Eye for Detail: Director Featurette”; deleted scenes and a theatrical trailer.
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