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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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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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