This gritty police drama sees director Antoine Fuqua return to the familiar territory with which he made his name in 2001’s Training Day. Fuqua assembles an impressive cast including Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke and Don Cheadle, and fans of The Wire will notice a few familiar faces from the cast. But while Fuqua succeeds in drawing big performances from his leads, Brooklyn’s Finest falls short of its potential.
The plot follows Gere, Hawke and Cheadle as rogue cops with personal agendas. Sal (Hawke) desperately needs to move his expanding family to an expensive new home and is increasingly tempted by seized drug money. Tango (Cheadle), having lost his identity to a three-year undercover assignment, is offered the promotion that will allow him his life back – but it requires the betrayal of his best friend. Finally, Eddie (Gere) waits for retirement, seeking refuge in whiskey and sojourns with a young prostitute. Fuqua keeps the film alive by allowing considerable moral ambiguity to seep in – characters can be both sympathetic and wrong.
Unfortunately, it’s hard not to feel deflated by the time the credits roll. Things move towards a climactic pay-off, but it takes too long to get there, and disappoints once it does. Brooklyn’s Finest is functional enough – but with the talents involved you’d expect it to pack a lot more punch.
In this Hollywood rom-com with indie sensibilities, Ben Stiller stars as the neurotic Roger Greenberg who, following a breakdown and a spell in hospital, returns to LA to house-sit his brother’s home, intent on doing nothing. There he is reunited with old friends including a downbeat Rhys Ifans, and starts an awkward relationship with his brother’s long-suffering personal assistant Florence, played by newcomer (but, with any justice, soon to be huge) Greta Gerwig. A far cry from the comic roles in Dodgeball and Meet The Parents that made him a household name, Stiller here delivers a mature, sincere performance in what is an often funny and always charming film.
Gerwig’s Florence is a complete pleasure to watch, vying for center stage with Stiller’s difficult but sympathetic Greenberg. A slow-burning meditation on the awkwardness of relationships, Noah Baumbach’s film is a treat that’ll make a great date movie, and works equally as a simple slice of comforting escapism.
AFTER THE DANCE
National Theatre, Lyttleton
Terence Rattigan’s play was originally staged in 1939, and presciently suggests a world slipping towards catastrophe. It is the twilight of the Bright Young People, the decadent buffoons who partied away the inter-war years. Leading the way is David Scott-Fowler (Benedict Cumberbatch) a moneyed would-be historian in his late thirties. He lives in a vast Mayfair flat with his wife, his butler, his young cousin and secretary, and his layabout parasite of a friend John.
They get drunk at parties by night and waste their days in a haze of gossip and hangovers. Anyone leaning towards seriousness or sincerity is charged with being “a bore”. Even David and his wife Joan consider love an inconvenience, and happily dismiss it. Only when David falls for winsome 20-year-old Helen do deeply-buried emotions come bubbling to the surface, with tragic consequences.
It’s hard to sympathise with such horrid characters, though Rattigan weaves in sharp comedy to leaven their boorishness. I wonder if they didn’t already seem rather irrelevant targets in 1939 – the play lasted just 60 performances on its first staging, and has only rarely been seen since. Now they seem like ghosts.
Nevertheless, Thea Sharrock’s elegant production finds the humanity in these people, particularly in one devastating scene as Joan – a marvellous Nancy Carroll – sits in shell-shocked silence as the hideous futility of her life hits home. Adrian Scarborough gives a splendid comic turn as John, and in the lead role Cumberbatch is fiercely charismatic.
ROYAL ACADEMY SUMMER EXHIBITION
It might generally attract the opprobrium of art critics, but the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition, which opens next week, remains a crowd favourite and a seasonal institution. Featuring scores of works selected by open submission, it’s arguably the most diverse and colourful art show in the calendar. While the quality may vary greatly, there are always islands of excellence to be discovered.
There are also galleries of works by Academicians and invited established artists, who this year include Ed Ruscha, Michael Craig-Martin and Tracey Emin.
As if to deflect any accusations of staidness or stuffiness, the RA is even moving with the times this year by creating an iPhone application that explores the exhibition room by room, including 150 images from the exhibition and video interviews with artists. Download it from iTunes. Better still, go along.
The Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, W1J 0BD. The exhibition runs from 14 June-22 August, tickets £8.