Street Kings

"Good"

Street Kings Review


Cops countermanding the law, using the close-knit nature of their badge to secretly settle scores on the street, have long since become a cinematic cliché. The police have gone from donut-munching jokes to felons in blue and black finery. From the decent beat officer taking bribes to buffer his paycheck, to the undercover operative in so deep he no longer remembers what side of society he's on, "to protect and serve" has been modified -- at least in the movies -- to "pervert and steal." Street Kings, the latest motion picture inspired by a story from James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential), dabbles freely in this kind of corrupt no man's land, and for the most part, it's a thrilling journey.

Alcoholic police detective Todd Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) has just finished wrapping up a notorious kidnapping case when Captain Jack Wander (Forest Whittaker) gives him the bad news. His ex-partner Terrence Washington (Terry Crews) is talking to Internal Affairs, and bureau head Captain James Biggs (Hugh Laurie) is looking to take Ludlow down. Before he can intimidate his former friend into not snitching, a pair of gang bangers kill him. Desperate to clear his own name in the death, Ludlow begins to investigate. Soon, he's linking the crime to a couple of local drug dealers who seem incapable of committing the hit. With Wander on his side and Biggs on his back, it will take all the street savvy he has to solve the case -- that is, if someone doesn't try and permanently stop him too.

Never really surprising us, even as it crackles with cinematic energy, Street Kings is an inherently engaging crime drama. Even though we know where the narrative is going before the characters do, and grasp the ambiguous moralizing right up front, Training Day screenwriter David Ayers, delivers a gritty, gratuitous entertainment. As only his second time behind the camera (the first being the underrated Harsh Times), he finds the proper balance between urban crime and uptown punishment. Sure, the casting is a little bizarre (Cedric the Entertainer as a hard-nosed heroin addict? Hugh Laurie as a brutish Internal Affairs chief?), but for every odd beat, Ayers has an action movie answer. There are many moments when this standard police procedural feels like a contemporary Chinatown filtered through a subtler Scarface. At other instances, it all falls apart.

Reeves finally shakes his post-Matrix malaise to deliver a finely tuned turn as Ludlow. Face puffy with the initial stages of gin blossoms, and his attitude soured as much as soused, he comes across as defiant, but dour, capable of great heroism. That is, when he isn't violating every protocol and Constitutional protection imaginable. He is matched well by Whitaker, who seems permanently wound up and amplified here. Their scenes together arc with unexpected dramatics. Along the edges, Fantastic Four's Chris Evans and comedian Jay Mohr offer intriguing takes on the good cop/bad cop dynamic. Even Cedric and Laurie manage to overcome our expectations to deliver key performances.

It's just too bad then that Street Kings doesn't offer up anything new or original. Indeed, fans of Curtis Hanson's Oscar winning Ellroy adaptation from 1997 may be able to predict the ending without seeing the entire storyline. Yet Ayers delivers enough genre basics, turning the narrative in ways that make the clichés seem clever, that we don't mind revisiting these stale situations. Calling a film derivative is usually considered detrimental. For Street Kings, being an above-average example of an overused idea is not necessarily a bad thing. An influx of invention would have made this a modern classic. As it stands, it's solidly serviceable.

You'll never take me alive, coppers! Oh, I guess you will.



Street Kings

Facts and Figures

Run time: 109 mins

In Theaters: Friday 11th April 2008

Box Office USA: $26.4M

Box Office Worldwide: $65.6M

Budget: $20M

Distributed by: 20th Century Fox/Regency Films

Production compaines: Fox Searchlight Pictures, Regency Enterprises, Dune Entertainment III, Emmett/Furla Films, Yari Film Group

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 36%
Fresh: 54 Rotten: 97

IMDB: 6.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: David Ayers

Starring: as Detective Tom Ludlow, as Captain Jack Wander, as Detective Paul Diskant, as Captain James Biggs, as Grace Garcia, as Scribble, as Linda Washington, as Coates, as Detective Cosmo Santos, as Julie Fukashima, Cle Shaheed Sloan as Fremont, Jayceon Terrell Taylor as Grill, Michael Monks as Michael Monks

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

At just 27 years old, Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan has an almost overwhelming set of...

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

Advertisement
The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.