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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 Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang and Companions: This first native Korean priest was the son of Korean converts. His father, Ignatius Kim, was martyred during the persecution of 1839 and was beatified in 1925. After Baptism at the age of 15, Andrew traveled 1,300 miles to the seminary in Macao, China. After six years he managed to return to his country through Manchuria. That same year he crossed the Yellow Sea to Shanghai and was ordained a priest. Back home again, he was assigned to arrange for more missionaries to enter by a water route that would elude the border patrol. He was arrested, tortured and finally beheaded at the Han River near Seoul, the capital. Paul Chong Hasang was a lay apostle and married man, aged 45. 
<p>Christianity came to Korea during the Japanese invasion in 1592 when some Koreans were baptized, probably by Christian Japanese soldiers. Evangelization was difficult because Korea refused all contact with the outside world except for bringing taxes to Beijing annually. On one of these occasions, around 1777, Christian literature obtained from Jesuits in China led educated Korean Christians to study. A home Church began. When a Chinese priest managed to enter secretly a dozen years later, he found 4,000 Catholics, none of whom had ever seen a priest. Seven years later there were 10,000 Catholics. Religious freedom came in 1883. </p><p>When Pope John Paul II visited Korea in 1984 he canonized, besides Andrew and Paul, 98 Koreans and three French missionaries who had been martyred between 1839 and 1867. Among them were bishops and priests, but for the most part they were lay persons: 47 women, 45 men. </p><p>Among the martyrs in 1839 was Columba Kim, an unmarried woman of 26. She was put in prison, pierced with hot tools and seared with burning coals. She and her sister Agnes were disrobed and kept for two days in a cell with condemned criminals, but were not molested. After Columba complained about the indignity, no more women were subjected to it. The two were beheaded. A boy of 13, Peter Ryou, had his flesh so badly torn that he could pull off pieces and throw them at the judges. He was killed by strangulation. Protase Chong, a 41-year-old noble, apostatized under torture and was freed. Later he came back, confessed his faith and was tortured to death. </p><p>Today, there are almost 5.1 million Catholics in Korea.</p> American Catholic Blog We never think of connecting violence with our tongues. But the first weapon, the most cruel weapon, is the tongue. Examine what part your tongue has played in creating peace or violence. We can really wound a person, we can kill a person, with our tongue.

 
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