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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Brooklyn's Finest

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Catholic imagery pervades director Antoine Fuqua's seamy New York police drama "Brooklyn's Finest" (Overture).

But faith provides no meaningful guidance to the conflicted cops who populate this grim journey through Gotham's criminal underworld. Instead, characters cross all manner of legal and moral boundaries as the obscenity laden-script lurches from bloodshed to explicit scenes of sexuality.

The film chronicles a week in the lives of three troubled lawmen: cynical patrolman Eddie Dugan (Richard Gere), who's on the verge of retirement; undercover operative Clarence "Tango" Butler (Don Cheadle), who's desperate for promotion to a safe desk job; and narcotics officer Sal Procida (Ethan Hawke), who finds himself tempted to steal drug money to provide for his ill wife and growing family.

The ultimately impotent role of religion in at least two of these three chaotic lives is typified by a pair of unsettling early scenes.

In one, Eddie wakes up from a nightmare in a bedroom where practically the only form of decoration is a rosary hanging over the bed, downs a shot of whiskey and plays a round of Russian roulette with his service pistol jammed in his mouth. The other shows Sal going to confession, but ultimately declaring—with language typical for the dialogue but wildly inappropriate for the sacred setting—that he doesn't want God's forgiveness, just his help.

Sal's goal is to raise the money—by fair means or foul—for a new house, not only to get away from the mold that aggravates wife Angela's (Lili Taylor) asthma, but to accommodate the five children he already has and the twins who are on the way. The clear implication is that Sal's Catholic beliefs prevent him from exercising responsible family planning, as though artificial contraception were the only viable means of doing so.

Sal's back is adorned with a large tattoo of the archangel Michael, along with the text of the familiar prayer invoking that heavenly warrior's protection. As the film reaches its improbable, corpse-strewn climax, Sal misguidedly recites this prayer before launching an attack as vicious and conscience-deadening as anything served up by the ruthless traffickers he is meant to be combating.

The film contains frequent bloody violence, including beatings, shootings and strangulation, graphic nonmarital sexual activity, upper female nudity, a few uses of profanity and unremitting rough and crude language. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.





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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog We need do no more than we are doing at present; that is, to love divine Providence and abandon ourselves in his arms and heart.<br />—St. Padre Pio

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