Koch on Film

By Ed Koch

"Brooklyn’s Finest” (+)

This is a well-done film about a corrupt New York City police department.  Although it takes place in the present, the corruption depicted is so massive that it reminded me of what went on in that department before the Knapp Commission conducted its investigation of the New York City Police Department in 1970. 

The Knapp Commission established that an enormous number of cops were corrupt, on the take, and on the pad (paid off primarily by drug dealers for allowing them to conduct their illegal activities without fear).  Ultimately, because the corruption was so substantial and involved a huge number of people in high positions, the city was forced to provide amnesty for many of them or find itself without a functioning police department.  It shook the Lindsay administration to its core. 

Today most people believe — and I’m one of them — that since the Knapp Commission’s investigation, the NYC police department has reformed itself and overall is made up of professional men and women of integrity.  Commissioner Ray Kelly has earned the respect of the citizens of New York City as well as the members of the police force. 

Now to the film.  Sal (Ethan Hawke), a detective who is overwhelmed by financial problems and family obligations, resorts to killing and stealing drugs and money from the dealers.  Tango (Don Cheadle) is an undercover cop who appears to be honest.  He is asked by a tough, cruel, and racist federal agent — Agent Smith (Ellen Barkin) — to set up a drug dealer, Caz (Wesley Snipes), who has just been released from prison. 

Tango is conflicted about the assignment, because Caz once saved his life when Tango was working undercover in a prison.  Eddie (Richard Gere), an alcoholic police officer seven days shy of retirement, has avoided encounters with criminals throughout his long career (preferring to keep his head down and do the minimum to get by).  All the actors are excellent in their portrayals of their characters. 

The film contains a lot of violence and includes situations that some cops deal with during their patrols, e.g., a white officer shoots a black undercover cop who has a gun in his hand after apprehending a criminal; another rescues a kidnapped young woman sold into prostitution; and a fracas between a child and a storekeeper leads to a shooting. 

“Brooklyn’s Finest” was directed by Antoine Fuqua.  It is a good, entertaining film, similar to Fuqua’s earlier film, “Training Day.” 

Henry Stern said:  “Since I began writing codas to Mayor Koch’s reviews, this is the first picture I have seen which is a piece of trash.  The title is sarcastic, since most of the characters are drug dealers, their henchmen, and crooked, lazy or brutal police officers.  You can guess what the women are.  The body count is over a dozen, but the shooters (both cops and crooks) have good aim — because their victims usually drop on the spot rather than writhe around in protracted agony.  The most suspense came when the drug dealers were holding a buddy over the edge of the roof in a housing project, because they wrongly suspected him of snitching.  The picture is a disservice to Brooklyn in 2010.  Avoid it.”

Running Time: 2 hours, 13 minutes. Rated R. Now screening at, among other places, Regal Union Square Stadium 14 (850 Broadway). For showtimes, call (800) 326-3264 x628.