Street Kings
dir David Ayer
scr James Ellroy, Kurt Wimmer, Jamie Moss
with Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, Chris Evans, Hugh Laurie, Jay Mohr, John Corbett, Amaury Nolasco, Martha Higareda, Naomie Harris, Cedric the Entertainer, Terry Crews, The Game
release US 11.Apr.08, UK 18.Apr.08
08/US Fox 1h49
Street Kings
Good cop bad cop: Reeves

whitaker evans laurie
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Street Kings Slick and involving, this film looks a lot better than it actually is. A general emptiness nags as the story progresses, undermining the solid performances and weaving in a seriously ugly message.

Detective Tom Ludlow (Reeves) is a member of an elite Los Angeles vice squad with a fiercely protective captain (Whitaker) and fellow officers (Mohr, Corbett, Nolasco) who look out for each other. But after a particularly "heroic" bust, Ludlow is viciously confronted by his former partner (Crews), while an internal affairs captain (Laurie) starts snooping around. Murder ensues, indicating that something nefarious is up, and the tenacious Ludlow starts working with a young homicide cop (Evans) to get to the bottom of it.

For a brilliant, hard-nosed detective, it sure takes Ludlow a long time to figure out what's going on. Because any self-respecting audience member will figure it out immediately, including who the writers are planning to kill off. As a director, Ayers does his best to distract us from this depressing predictability by making sure everything on screen looks terrific (it does) and that the cast members keep it real (they do).

At the centre, Reeves gives a tough, blunt performance that holds our attention from grisly start to gruesome finish. He may be a dirty cop, but his heart is in the right place, and his determination is inspiring. He also has superb chemistry with Whitaker, Evans and Laurie, who give it back to him with equal energy (plus some scene-chewing craziness here and there), while Mohr, Corbett and Nolasco are like the Three Stooges in a brutal episode of L.A. Vice. A supporting cast of gritty urban types adds realism, while Harris and Higareda are fine in token female roles.

With its jingoistic dialog and sharp attention to detail, this film shamelessly panders to the worst element of human nature, namely the urge for violent vengeance. The message is that blasting someone to bits in cold blood is the best route to inner peace. Which is, frankly, reprehensible. No matter how well made this film is, like Ayers' Training Day and Harsh Times, it proves that he creates great characters, but that he loves dumb violence even more.

cert 15 themes, language, very strong violence 9.Apr.08

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Street Kings David Weare, London: 3/5 "Slick, Michael Mann-like in it's elavation of contemporary LA to almost mythic status. Beautiful & deadly. Almost sci-fi like in this respect. Ellroy's noir story is inexorable, as usual, in it's progress. Apart from Reeves death, or lack of. This film is quite something. Floored, predictable and bleak. Also a bit adolescent in it's projection on violent vengeance fantasy. Still, Reeves character is existential, mesmeric and, like the plot, unstoppable. This is what LA noir looks like after Heat, after The Shield. Really ugly, but fascinating. Worth watching. Reeves lingers in the noodle for a while afterwards." (21.Jun.08)
© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall