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.
“Green Zone” (-)
This is a polemic involving the CIA (the good guys) and the White House (the bad guys) — who in this movie script got us into the Iraq war by fabricating the intelligence concerning weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).
After the war in Iraq in 1993 was initially won, Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) is sent to Iraq to search for WMDs. Every site he and his team examine comes up empty, and Miller soon concludes that there are no such weapons, and the intelligence is faulty.
On the scene is a Wall Street Journal reporter, Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan), who wrote story after story before the war reporting on the existence of such weapons. She tells Miller that her information came from Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) — an intelligence officer on the White House staff. Poundstone is in Baghdad as is CIA representative Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson), who is constantly frustrated by Poundstone’s actions.
Many in the audience will undoubtedly enjoy the ridiculing of the White House and the smearing of President George W. Bush — who is shown several times on television news broadcasts.
At the beginning of the film an Iraqi civilian, Freddy (Khalid Abdalla), approaches Miller and tells him where the highest-ranking Iraqi military person, General Al Rawi (Igal Naor), is hiding. That particular scene is totally unbelievable. There are other scenes that made no sense, primarily because we are not told who particular military personnel are and whether they might be hired mercenaries swooping in on helicopters. It occurred to me that some could have been the civilians hired for guard duty by the State Department who were later exposed in real life as out of control. Some actually disgraced themselves by killing innocent Iraqi civilians and were ultimately fired. Some were tried in a federal court and exonerated.
I don’t like polemics; not even those supporting my position. This film does not support my position. I believe we were right to enter Iraq based on the information provided by the CIA which we later learned was wildly incorrect. I also believe that George Tenet should have been fired for incompetence and his comment regarding the existence of WMDs in Iraq: “Don’t worry, it’s a slam-dunk.” He should not have been allowed to retire. He should have been fired and not presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his service by President George W. Bush.
The tension in the film is provided by the excellent soundtrack, several car chase scenes, helicopters flying overhead, and technology allowing the U.S. military to follow Iraqi insurgents running away during the night hours when their safe house had been uncovered. But with all of that, the movie contains far too little in terms of a coherent, believable plot.
Running Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes. Rated R. Now screening at, among other places, Regal Union Square Stadium 14 (850 Broadway). For showtimes, call (800) 326-3264 x628.