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

New Movies

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Advertisement
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

The Big Sick Movie Review

The Big Sick Movie Review

It may be rather long for a romantic comedy, but this film has such a...

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

There's no reason why this animated comedy adventure needed to be this pointless. Solidly entertaining...

England Is Mine Movie Review

England Is Mine Movie Review

While this is billed as a film about The Smiths' singer-songwriter Morrissey, it's actually an...

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

It's been 20 years since French filmmaker Luc Besson shook up the sci-fi genre with...

Dunkirk Movie Review

Dunkirk Movie Review

Britain's epic 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk has been dramatised on film before, but no one...

Killing Ground Movie Review

Killing Ground Movie Review

From Australia, this dark and edgy thriller is skilfully made by writer-director Damien Power to...

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.