It doesn’t get simpler than this: two guys (Scott Caan and Freddie Prinze, Jr.) talking it out under a streetlight in static frames.
What might make it notable is this scene’s setting beside the Cyclone Roller Coaster in Coney Island. It’s a grand, ancient structure that presented countless opportunities to exploit its architecture (especially in anamorphic format!), but in this case performance took precedence and the best graphics were left on the cutting room floor.
Believe it not, that was a good thing. The old saying declares that you’ve lost your audience if they leave the theater humming the music. That also applies to the cinematography. Though we strive to do our best with every shot, story and characters are all that really matter. Just call to mind some of the movies you’ve loved that weren’t particularly well shot. The sub-par imagery didn’t affect you at all. Then turn it around and imagine a few that were beautifully mounted but otherwise lacking. In those cases, the photography couldn’t save the day. Things fall apart quickly when images call too much attention to themselves – when look overpowers narrative. It’s something to be avoided, especially when you’re tempted to choose the showier option.
This is not a reflexive impulse among young cinematographers. Like everything else worthwhile, it takes time and effort to develop. But when they finally understand that their job is to create a mood while remaining invisible, they’re on their way to doing something meaningful…and perhaps, memorable.
Even so, there is a small personal touch on display. Brooklyn Rules takes place in the 1980’s; I used sheets of Lee Antique Brass gel over the key lights to deliver a color exactly as I remember it from that time.