“ Genre: Crime & Thriller / Theatrical Release: 2008 / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: David Ayer / Actors: Jay Mohr, John Corbett, Hugh Laurie, Forest Whitaker, Terry Crews ... / DVD released 2008-09-15 at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment / Features of the DVD: PAL „
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Keanu Reeves as an alcoholic, violent cop who is accused of killing his partner and will do everything he possibly can to clear his name seems like something you could only ever imagine in a dream, or a nightmare! Who would cast Keanu in such a role? He has never really done dramatic roles that require a high level of acting ability and has concentrated, mainly, on comedy, action or lightweight roles.
The selling point of Street Kings is seeing him in such a role, alongside much better actors like Forrest Whittaker and Hugh Laurie (again showing what a marvellous American accent he can do) and the fact that it is the creation of David Ayer, the writer of Training Day and writer/director of Harsh Times, two excellent movies.
Storyline wise the two sentences pretty much cover it all. Keanu, as Tom Ludlow, is suspected of killing his own partner and has to dig deep into the murky world of corruption in the Police force to try and clear his name.
Whittaker is his Captain who is looking forward to and imminent promotion to chief, and wants the Ludlow problem sorted out as soon as possible before the stain of a corrupt cop in his department ruins his chances and Laurie is the head of Internal Affairs who is interested in Ludlow for his own personal reasons.
To answer the first question that will cross people's lips... Keanu is just about OK. He does a fine job of looking the part of a cop with everything going against him but he just doesn't have the amount of gravitas, that deep, dark commanding presence that the role needs, especially in scenes with an acting powerhouse like Whittaker or Laurie's quiet, understated but forceful IAD captain.
Street Kings starts with a beating and then a bullet frenzied gun battle and never really slows down much from that frantic opening.
Behind the action there is a decent, though often seen, story about police corruption, brutality and the redemption of a man who was on the very edge. Street Kings could have been an above average movie, which would have surprised everyone, much like the Wahlberg/Phoenix cop drama that came out not that long before it 'We Own The Night'. Sadly the very predictable story, and Keanu as the lead, certainly drag it down.
Given the choice watching Training Day or Harsh Times (or the above mentioned 'We Own') again would give you a much better dose of what Street Kings offers you.
The styles are the same and the mood, look and violence is a major part of all the films.
The underlying theme of redemption and corruption are there to but all three have actors much more suited to the seriousness of the themes (Training Day having Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke and Harsh Times Christian Bale).
Getting past the bad casting may have been possible though if the story hadn't been so clichéd. If you cannot spot what is going on very early then I would have to say that you either haven't watched many cop dramas or just are not playing much attention!
Whittaker and Laurie both show how Street Kings could have been a much better film with a better cast lead actor. Someone who is used to playing the kind of role that Ludlow is, someone with a better pedigree that Keanu. I still don't think it would have been a great film but it might have got close to it!
Street Kings was a film I was really looking forward to - starring 2 well-known actors (Keanu Reeves and Forest Whittaker) and produced by the people behind the excellent Training Day. And so when I saw it on Sky, I immediately hit the record button.
Keanu Reeves plays a crooked LA cop who doesn't play by the rules but gets the job done (have we heard that story before somewhere). Reeves' boss (Forest Whitaker) knows that he cuts corners during his investigations, but is always there to pick up the pieces and to cover for him.
The main storyline revolves around Reeves' investigation into his ex-partner (I won't spoil the story by saying what happens to him). There's a few twists and turns along the way but overall it was a bit of a let-down - no great fight scenes or special effects to think of, no great action and it's not a particularly compelling storyline either.
Forest Whitaker did well as the police chief but I thought Reeves was a little off-form and nowhere near as good as he was in films such as Point Break. At roughly 1 hour and 40 mins, the film didn't drag on, but it was hardly edge of your seat stuff.
The movie is rated as 15, so you klnow straight away that there's not going to be much violence or swearing. There were no sex scenes or nudity to liven things up either, in fact there wasn't a romantic sub-plot at all which was actually quite refreshing!
Overall I was quite disappointed with Street Kings - there's many, many better cop films and many, many better action films than this.
note: also appears in part on Flixster and The Student Room
David Ayer is one of the best current directors of the gang troubles facing Los Angeles - his films Training Day and Harsh Times were both exhilarating looks at both abject poverty in some parts of LA, and the inescapable riptide of gang culture. His third film, Street Kings, whilst not quite as accomplished as his previous two films, follows along the same lines of blurred morality, again considering the morality of police corruption in all of its degrees.
LAPD Detective Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) is a cop that bends the rules frequently, as do all of the officers in his squad. In order to be efficient, they often falsify reports and cover-up things simply to save time and stop Internal Affairs from encroaching upon their business. Things become problematic when a disgruntled former partner, Detective Terrence Washington (Terry Crews), witnesses Ludlow's corruption and, having gone straight, rats him out to Internal Affairs Captain James Biggs (Hugh Laurie), who then begins an investigation into Ludlow's activities. The walls begin to close in on Ludlow, who must quickly work out who exactly is working against him, and also where the line between corruption and police work must be drawn.
The film presents some interesting moral questions and looks at the dangers of a system left unchecked, where everyone from judges to politicans can be paid off or blackmailed. It also takes a decidedly utilitarian and philosophical look at the job of police officers, that stepping beyond their bounds is sometimes necessary in order to preserve justice.
Whilst the weakest of Ayer's thematic trilogy, Street Kings remains a palatable examination of police corruption and the applications of violence. Even with its highly convoluted plot, Street Kings remains afloat thanks to its inviting performances, its grittiness, and its highly satisfying ending.
After the death of his wife, detective Tom Ludlow is struggling to keep it together. His methods are becoming increasingly unorthodox, no more so than one night when he manages to orchestrate the slaying of several Korean gang members. Under the instruction of his boss, Captain Jack Wander, his team does everything in its power to protect him from investigation, but when his former partner, Terrence Washington, decides to go to internal affairs Ludlow soon finds himself under the careful watch of a Captain James Biggs. Consigned to a desk job until the dust settles, Ludlow begins to question his status within the force and with a new partner in tow, he starts to unravel the truth behind his friends and team mates, otherwise known as the street kings.
Writer James Elroy is no stranger to the crime fiction genre, having penned a number of very successful novels including LA Confidential and The Black Dahlia. The principal writer of Street Kings, he has teamed up with Kurt Wimmer for the screenplay (a strange move, particularly given that Wimmer previously directed the sci-fi actioners Equilibrium and Ultraviolet) and director David Ayer, last seen three years earlier directing Harsh Times. Street Kings is a relatively complicated tale of corruption and wrong-doing, and whilst it executes the goods in a reasonably entertaining fashion, it's hard to see the point of it all.
There's only so much mileage in a police corruption drama and there's not an awful lot going on in Street Kings that we haven't seen before. Keanu Reeves is detective Tom Ludlow, clearly a man living on the edge (aren't they always?) who is consistently blurring the lines between right and wrong to clean up the streets of Los Angeles. Yes, it's Los Angeles again, the home of pretty much every corrupt cop ever known to man, most notably in the (excellent) television drama, The Shield. It's a point worth making given only that Street Kings very often feels as though it's trying to be that show, except it isn't really that good. The narrative has an adequate number of twists and turns but it's such a dour, moody little affair that, if we're honest, corrupt LA cops don't really seem to hold that much interest anymore.
The trouble with corruption stories is that they always revolve around a single person who's in it up to his neck and then starts to question what it is that's going on, for whatever reason. For this to work properly you need a pretty strong lead and, unfortunately, for Street Kings, the casting team chose Keanu Reeves for the role. Reeves has a certain screen presence that really only lends itself to certain roles and here he's only as effective as his limited capabilities allow him to be. Often criticised for being wooden, he's not actually that bad in the role (indeed, his rather unemotional stance on things could easily be put down to the fact that he's still mourning the loss of his wife.) But he doesn't have the range to properly grapple with the varying emotions that he's supposed to be going through. He can do cold and angry and that's about it and there's very little else to redeem him. As such, he's not a particularly sympathetic character and when things go pear-shaped, the audience doesn't really care.
The director plays things down the conventional line. Los Angeles is its usual bustling, uninspiring self with events taking place alternately at night in the suburbs and in the dusty heat of the hills during the day. Ayer doesn't really seem particularly keen to do anything very differently or innovatively and wants the audience to focus on the plot rather than any visual impact that the film might have. The unending gang culture and "hood" setting almost seems clichéd now and the character interactions are even more predictable. Ludlow somehow manages to punch, kick and batter his way through every witness and situation like a one-man army and it's rarely very plausible. Compared, for instance, to the gritty, balanced approach taken by The Shield, where the lead characters often come up against their match, instead, Ludlow seems to think he can shoot his way out of any situation. There's a "buddy" element thrown in for good measure, whereby Ludlow teams up with a younger detective Paul Diskant (known as Disco) as if to try and bring some of Ludlow's humanity out but it doesn't really work.
Ludlow's captain, played here by Forest Whitaker, is a rather more dominant (and ultimately believable) character as Whitaker employs his trademark passion to the role. Curiously, he's initially rather like the antithesis of his character in The Shield, but then starts to develop a strong obsessive streak that paints him in the same colours after all. Ludlow's new partner Chris Evans (Disco) is a welcome, fresh-faced addition to the cast but seems kind of wasted here. A curious addition to the cast comes from Hugh Laurie who, keen to capitalise on his newfound super stardom in the states as the dour medic House, now branches out by playing a rather dour police officer. I hate Laurie with a passion. His conversion to an honorary American really doesn't cut it for me and I still see him as The Prince Regent in Blackadder 3. In fairness, he isn't exactly bad here, but it's really just the case that there could have been so many actors who would have been better.
In its favour, there's nothing "smart-arsed" about Street Kings. Even when the "buddy" theme starts to develop, the script spares us from the usual clichéd smart remarks that follow a fight or car chase and, notably, there is absolutely no bond or chemistry between Reeves and Evans whatsoever. Curiously, there isn't the pre-requisite car chase that we'd normally see either, and the infrequent action scenes are, on the whole, very competently put together.
This alone, however, doesn't really save it. As the plot trundles along, there somehow doesn't seem to be any room for any depth of characterisation. We understand a little about all of the leading characters, but we don't really 'get' any of them. It's an enormous shame because you can't help feeling that there's quite a lot to understand. Nonetheless, as it is, Street Kings becomes just another police drama and is unlikely to be remembered for long after the final credits roll.
Street Kings is a Crime, Thriller and Action film starring Keanu Reeves, Hugh Laurie and Forest Whitaker. This is a good film but it could be better. I bought this on DVD a couple weeks ago and thought it was an okay film but one good point is it has a brilliant storyline.
Keanu Reeves plays Tom Ludlow, a vigilante disillusioned copper who is haunted by bthe death of his wife. Ludlow's unit including their captain, Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker) are all bent meaning they usually break the rules and cover it up. The film starts with Ludlow waking up with a hangover from the previous night, he heads to meet two Koreans to "sell" them weapons. He soon finds two young Korean girls they have kidnapped and kills the gang who kidnapped them. Ludlow's unit arrives and covers up Ludlow's reclessness. The film then gpes on to Ludlow discovering his fromer partner has been grassing on his unit and proceeds to confront him at a gas station only to end up in a shoot out with two baddies who raid the station and in the process kill Ludlow's former partner. When Ludlow's unit arrives he discovers it looks like he killed him and then his unit begin to cover it up. With Internal Affair on to him Ludlow sets out to discover who killed his old partner and uncovers a far bigger cover up in his unit. He then ends up having his unit onto him and ends up destroying his unit. Internal Affairs Captain James Biggs (Hugh Laurie) reveals that he used Ludlow to bring down Wander and his unit. Biggs then tells him that he needs men like him on his unit, men who are corrupt but are really honest.
This film has a few twists in it and I love the casting line up to it. The action in this film is brilliant but this film could have some more scenes in it and maybe a few more cast members.
Overall this film is worth watching but you may or may not like it.
In the film, a verteran police officer features in a tale of good vs bad. He is unable to get over the death of his wife and he has been framed as the killer of another police member. He must act quickly and with the enemy if he wants to clear his name and get the right guy for good.
The cast puts in solid preformances and fit into their roles very well. The script is entertaining and funny in certain parts. The directing is good and clear. The message is good and doesn't get in the way of the film. The plot twists will keep you entertained but can make the film hard to follow. The film can be enjoyed over and over again before it gets boring,.
The picture and sound quality of the DVD is very good. The extras are worth a watch and include some informative commentaries and behind the scenes footage.
In short, this film is entertaining and is packed with action from start to finish. It can be hard to follow at times but the script and cast make it worth while. It is a must buy for every action fan but everyone else should just rent it.
I like James Elroy as an author so I was interested to see how this film turned out as Elroy was one of the screen play writers on the film and also it had a pretty good cast as I like Forest Whitaker and I was also interested to see how Hugh Laurie managed on a film set after his successful TV show in America called House.
This turned out to be a pretty good action film and even Keanu Reeves was pretty good and I'm not a big fan of his acting. Reeves character is a cynical LA cop who is prone to bending the law in order to get his job done, in fact there is a culture in the LA police force of doing anything necessary to get a conviction however this does not escape the eyes and ears of Internal Affairs and soon he is under investigation and he becomes inplicated in teh death of a fellow officer.
Keanu Reeves ... Detective Tom Ludlow
Forest Whitaker ... Captain Jack Wander
Hugh Laurie ... Captain James Biggs
Chris Evans ... Detective Paul Diskant
Cedric the Entertainer ... Scribble
Jay Mohr ... Sgt. Mike Clady
Terry Crews ... Detective Terrence Washington
Naomie Harris ... Linda Washington
Common ... Coates
There was a gritty realism about thsi film that I liked, the story line is fast paced and the action scenes are well balanced with some good dialogue. Elroy had a part to play in LA Confidential as it was based upon a short story of his and this film also reflects the quality of his work.
Definately a film I would recommend with some great performances, agripping script and some stylish scenes shot in LA.
Over the course of his rather high profile career, Hollywood heartthrob Keanu Reeves has had a number of top billing roles, from the stereotypical 'dude' in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure to the undercover cop in Point Blank. He has also had the honour of being Neo in the amazing series of Matrix films, and a plethora of hero roles as a cop or some innocent guy with a permanently perplexed expression of his face. This is his thing.
However, there have been a couple of films when we have seen his darker side. Sadly, the 2000 film The Watcher didn't live up to expectations, although his performance as a stalker was powerful. The same year, he followed it up with a convincing turn as a wife-beating hick in The Gift, a more high profile film that gave us a sight of him in a darker role.
Fast forward to 2008, and a high budget all star cast come together for Street Kings, a fast paced thriller involving the elements of police corruption and another dark role for Reeves. As the actor gets older, he seems more at home in this format, and I was thoroughly impressed by his portrayal of a hard-nosed cop with a mean streak and a slightly corrupt nature here on the streets of LA.
The film opens with Reeves' character, Tom Ludlow, on the hunt to find a pair of missing girls. We are soon shown the no nonsense style of his policing as he takes out the villains without prior warning, thus breaking the code for a cop. Then along comes Ludlow's unit, checking the scene and working out stories to make them all heroes as opposed to corrupt cops. Bear in mind that, at this point, we don't really know what is going on and director David Ayer, behind camera for only his second film, is giving us an introductory part for the main characters in Ludlow's unit rather than anything else.
Ludlopw's history is explained to us in dribs and drabs throughout the film, but the general story is that he has always been a hard-nosed cop, but has fallen on hard times after the death of his wife, left to die on the street by the man she was having an affair with. He seems on a self-destruct mission, and spends the entire film wrestling with his morals as an incident with his ex-partner ends in a fatal shooting. Unwilling to be placed at the scene, his unit concoct a story and attempt a coverup, while Ludlow goes AWOL and attempts to find the killers and avoid the inevitable accusing finger coming his way.
As he digs and delves, it is clear that there is something bigger than all of this going on, and it is not long before Internal Affairs' Captain Biggs (Hugh Laurie) and IA Detective Paul Diskant (Chris Evans) get embroiled in the affair. Biggs has history with the leader of Ludlow's unit, Captain Wander (an excellent Forest Whitaker), and this all becomes part of the strange mix of personalities on offer in the film.
Reeves and Whitaker battle it out for best performance in the film, although Whitaker has the obvious advantage of being given a wider range of roles throughout his career. More acting is needed for his role, while Reeves just needs to look confused and determined all the way through. Both combine excellently, and with performances from Laurie and Evans in strong support, and the unnnervingly good casting of Jay Mohr, John Corbett and Amaury Nolasco as the members of Wander's unit, we have a rollicking good team of hardnosed actors playing hardnosed cops.
Corruption and twists are the two main elements of the film, as we see Ludlow wrestle with his conscience, his memory, and his salvation in the form of vodka. Ayer does well to keep this film suitably dark by placing the majority of it at night or in a darkened office setting, whilst maintaining tension and interest by keeping us thinking as viewers. There is often a tendency in films such as this to create too dark a mood and annoy the viewer. I particularly dislike this sort of film, but Street Kings got the balance just right, and I think the spot on casting helped.
The camera work is to be applauded, as is the haunting soundtrack - very subtle, yet noticeable all the way through. The gangster element is added nicely into the film by the addition of performers who are given the 'Gangsta Rapper' tag such as Common and The Game, and the emergence of Cedric the Entertainer is surprisingly successful. You half expect Eminem and 50 Cent to stroll through the door at some point.
Ultimately, Street Kings doesn't do anything new from what we have already seen in cinema. The story of possible corruption among the police and some gang killings, a cop struggling with the bottle and going rogue - it's all been done before. But what Ayer does in this film is give it to us right in the solar plexus and whilst keeping our interest all the way through. It's a top film, one of the best 'cop' films I have seen in a while, and I couldn't help thinking that it is up there with We Own The Night, released earlier in the year. Neither film received massive exposure, in a year when we have seen such summer blockbusters as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Iron Man and The Dark Knight. There was no point. But what films like this do is give us a true feeling that cinematic thrillers are still strong and will continue to form part of important cinema.
However, it's not all roses. Amidst all the wonderful filming and clever plot and acting, there are a number of questions left unanswered about the film, and many seemingly pointless scenes in the film which just surprised me. They spoilt it a little bit, although not enough for me to rate this anything lower than a 5 star film. Yes, this was a little confusing, but the main plot of the film wasn't put off course and nor was I.
Street Kings is a top film and I highly recommend watching it. Do so with the lights off and no background noise, and get yourself an ice cool beer. This is a good action filled cop thriller which will likely stand the test of time. Get ready for a twisting and turning thriller.
Police drama Street Kings is director David Ayer's second movie, following on from Harsh Times of 2005. The two screen writers of the new film, James Ellroy and Kurt Wimmer, are much better known than Ayer. Ellroy wrote the short story that became the basis for Curtis Hanson's L.A. Confidential of 1997, regarded as one of the best cop dramas ever, while Wimmer wrote the scripts for the futuristic dystopia Equlibrium and the crime story The Thomas Crown Affair. Teaming up, the two writers have come up with a gloomy, brutal and very bloody story set in an elite police department in Los Angeles.
Detective Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves - The Matrix Trilogy) is a workaholic whose police job has started to alarmingly resemble that of a hitman. In the opening scenes of Street Kings, Ludlow single-handedly and in cold blood (admittedly, he is somewhat drunk, which seems to be a habit on and off duty) massacres a Korean gang of child kidnappers, rescuing two 14 year old girls who were evidently destined for the internet pedophile market. Afterwards, he meticulously rearranges the scene to make his version of events - that he was shooting in self-defense - plausible when police ballistics experts arrive.
Moviegoers were introduced to the forerunner of Reeve's character back in the 1970's by Clint Eastwood and his Harry Callaghan, better known as Dirty Harry. The 21st century Dirty Harry is much more brutal and uses much more deadly weapons, as do his adversaries, but he faces the same dilemma: is a police officer entitled to resort to any means necessary to carry out his job and do criminals have any rights at all?
" I can't afford to lose you. Who'd do what you do?" Ludlow hears from his boss, Capt. Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker - The Last King of Scotland). Wander has some reason to worry, as Capt. James Biggs from the Internal Department (Hugh Laurie Sense and Sensibility), has started keeping a watchful eye on "L.A.'s deadliest white boy," as Ludlow's ex-partner, African-American Det. Terrence Washington (Terry Crews - The Sixth Day) calls him, with unconcealed dislike. In all likelihood, Washington is working with Biggs as an informer on his fellow officers.
A furious and drunk-as-usual Ludlow follows Washington and resolves to beat him senseless, but when they are in a small liquor store, two masked bandits armed with large machine guns appear out of nowhere. Under a hail of bullets, the officers are completely powerless, Washington dies and while Ludlow makes it out in one piece, it is clearly another wrong - place - wrong- time situation for him. Everybody, including Washington's widow Linda (Naomie Harris - Pirates of the Caribbean), suspects Ludlow of arranging a hit job and so Ludlow has to start a private investigation to clear his name. He finds an initially reluctant helper in a young and ambitious detective named Paul Diskant (Chris Evans - Fantastic Four, Cellular), who is probing Washington's death. What they discover together turns out to be more frightening than they could ever imagined.
Despite some gaps in the script and lots of implausible events (Ludlow manages to escape from situations where escape looks impossible), Street Kings is a decent action movie. As you leave the cinema, you just cannot resist the impression that in L.A. it is much safer to come face to face with a bandit than a police officer.
Yes, it has been done before - another film about police corruption and some people have said that this movie is quite dull. Some aspects of the film are a little tedious but overall I would say it is a good action movie that is compelling in parts There are some colourful shots of the L.A. landscape although the camera work is a little shaky in places. However, I have to say that Keanu Reeves is a dead loss in this film . I have come to the conclusion that he is successful because of his stunning good looks which is why he was good in Matrix. In Street Kings his acting is dreadful but if you are a fan of him doing his 'usual thing' then you will like this film. I don't really see the point of Hugh Laurie in the movie - why is he in the film? Thank goodness he was only in it for a short time. Forest Whitaker was a little out of his depth in this role which is a shame as he is usually impressive. If you are a fan of Training Day which was written by David Ayer, then you will definitely enjoy Street Kings. Recommended.
Running Time 109 minutes
I first noticed this movie when i was traveling through Asia with my cousins, it was being sold as an illegal copy on a stall outside. I have tested many of these movies before and they are very bad copies, but still are definantly illegal. Any ways i decided to buy it in The uk. It turns out that it was a great movie.....
(Cast overview, first billed only)
Keanu Reeves ... Detective Tom Ludlow
Forest Whitaker ... Captain Jack Wander
Hugh Laurie ... Captain James Biggs
Chris Evans ... Detective Paul Diskant
Cedric the Entertainer ... Scribble (as Cedric 'The Entertainer' Kyles)ay Mohr ... Sgt. Mike Clady
Terry Crews ... Detective Terrence Washington
The opening scene starts as Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) gives an offering To two Chinese thugs who are being ridiculed by Tom Ludlow and eventually pick a fight with him.
This movie stars Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) who works in a Special Vice Squad Unit in Los Angeles. He has been suffering from depression since his wife died. His ex partner has been killed by two gang members but he gets part of the blame for his death because he was a witness on the day of the death and that makes him a suspect. The problems begin to arise when he wants to make himself proven to be not guilty.
A movie that has many racially abusive words in it and many disrespecting scenes to people of different colors. No matter how many people he kills or abuses detective Tom Ludlow always sees himself respected and applauded bu the media and bu his co-workers.
Most parts through the movie you will never find much out about the character because there seems to be many different and unique characters who wont tell alot about themselves. This movie leaves you on the edges of your seat because you will never know what is going to happen next in the scene also you will never know who is on your side or who is going to betray you.
A great movie with many action packed scenes and realistic acting, this is definantly a movie to watch also because it is graphically entertaining with lots of special affects and a great storyline.
Firstly Keanu Reeves is on top form in this. I felt it had a pretty solid storyline and the acting was top notch throughout, so im not sure why a lot of critics didnt really rate it. Reeves plays a cop who has been devastated by the loss of his wife, who rarely follows the rules and then ends up having to cover this up!
Forest Whitaker is cracking as ever, playing Reeves superior, who seems to spend most of his time covering up the departments mess that Reeves helps to create.
Theres plenty of good action scenes as you would come to expect, and a few nice twists and turns to keep you guessing. It can sometimes get a little confusing whos on which side but it all becomes a bit clearer towards the end of the film.
I wasnt expecting too much when i watched this due to the reviews it recieved, but i was pleasantly suprised with what i ended up watching!
"Konichiba" is the offering Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) gives two Korean thugs as the movie Street Kings begins; the Japanese greeting does not go down well with the Koreans who return with a comment about if they look Chinese, "Your eyes are apostrophes, you don't know what you are!"
Street Kings is a movie probably best not seen if you have issues over racism in movies, harsh language, and at times gratuitous violence. But Street Kings is not the terrible plot-hole filled movie that some critics seem to be saddling the movie with, it's simply a matter of having the intelligence to deal with the subject matter, and the attention needed to give to the movie to correctly do it justice. I won't deny at times Street Kings is a little confusing, simply down to the fact that from the movies offset you really don't know who is good and whom is bad and this works from the top of the cast list to the bottom. The motives of the cast often seem way of whack of what constitutes normal behaviour and what is right.
Keanu Reeves who can be very hit and miss in a movie seems to have spent some of his time away from the big screen learning how to be a little less wooden and a bit more convincing, and convincing is a very good word to use when looking at his character Tom Ludlow, a cop shattered by the adultery and subsequent death of his wife. His style is pretty indiscriminate in his hunting down of either good or bad guys depending on how from the offset you see his character, death seems a fairly good option for any grey areas, and if you're guilty that too seems the best option. I certainly see two sides to the character of Ludlow and although initially they seem 100 miles apart Street Kings is a movie that needs a second viewing to ensure clarity in your mind. As a result Street Kings is a movie best suited to a home viewing than to a big screen offering, because some scenes really need a little closer examination after what you saw, or think you have seen has past.
I was rather pleased to see Chris Evans (not the ginger DJ once married to Billie Piper) turn up in the movie, a guy who has progressed dramatically from the movie Cellular in both his acting and his build. I see Evans falling a similar career path to Paul Walker, very much your thinking man's action hero. The situation with Evans in this movie, like many of the other characters is that his time onscreen is limited, and as the only likable actor in the movie, as well as being the only one clearly on the side of the good is rather sad. His character Detective Paul Diskant portrays him in a very fresh light, you cannot quite understand how he has shifted so quickly through the ranks, until you realise that he is much smarter than anybody that surrounds him. Due to the sharing of the wealth in respect of actors in the movie, he does remain slightly one dimensional, but I guess you learn enough to let his effect on the movie go by.
Other than Keanu Reeves screen time is equally portioned out between Chris Evans, Forrest Whitaker as Commander Jack Wander, Terry Crews plays Detective Washington the one time partner of Tom Ludlow viciously executed during the film taking the story in a different direction, The Game, Jay Mohr, Common, and Grace Garcia. Hugh Laurie is the most underused of the big name actors of the movie, while he is seemingly always around his onscreen time is probably limited to less than five minutes. Laurie's character Captain James Briggs certainly gives a clear direction of what side of the law he falls on, but looks can often be deceptive.
The action sequences are straight out of an Arnold Schwarzeneger movie, lots of use of things lying around; a fridge freezer turns into a remarkably good weapon in a kitchen shoot out, while a bin lid can take out a violent criminal. For those who like their weapons a little more traditional there are plenty of bullets flying round, and a head easing spade attack to literally split the situation one of the characters finds themselves in. There is a brilliant fish hook style incident with one of the "Bad Guys" mouths while driving a car at high speed, that will leave the word ouch in your mind for a while after the movie ends.
The soundtrack by Graeme Revell is literally stonking, like something out of the biggest budget horror, it gives a feel of a big impending terror and while at times seems out of place soon makes you realise that with the other dramatic contrasts the movie offers its pretty much perfectly in tune with what is going on.
The camerawork is not murky as such, but not so high definition as I would have liked, everything moves a little too fast and is seldom clear enough for you to be 100% certain of exactly what is going on. Pivotal scenes often seem buried due to the fact that at the moment things got rough you really never saw what was going on. A significant death three quarters of the way in seems really understated, and I would have preferred a little more drama in not only the story delivery, but how that was captured by the camera.
As a whole I was relatively impressed with Street Kings, the trailer does not serve it the justice it deserves, making it look remarkably like it focuses on the mainly Black and Hispanic ghetto style living, with everyone of colour involved in something they should not be. The trailer does not clearly deliver the emphasis on what side anyone is on either, clearly making the movie look like a fairly unconventional cop thriller, believe me Street Kings is far from conventional and leaves similar products like Harsh Times standing in its wake.
I've been a huge fan of Hugh Laurie's "House" for some time, so upon seeing a film advertised with his name high on the cast list, it immediately became a must see. If his role as grumpy American doctor Gregory House seemed an unlikely one for him, that of a police officer in what looked from the trailer to be a pretty standard action thriller would be even more so.
Tom Ludlow seems like an unconventional policeman; sleeping with his gun and starting his day doubled over the toilet. His methods seem pretty unorthodox as well; racially abusing suspects until they steal his car and shooting first and sorting out the details later. No matter how he does it, he gets results and, after cracking a major case, his boss and the press seem to love him. This love is not universal, however, as his former partner has reported him to Internal Affairs.
This knowledge seems to be where things start going wrong for Ludlow. Disobeying a direct order, he follows his former partner to a store and watches him get killed. The subsequent murder investigation finds the suspects, but to prove them guilty of the murder will be to contradict the "official" version of events and put his career in jeopardy. Deciding that doing the right thing is more important than doing right by himself helps Ludlow and his new partner, Paul "Disco" Diskant discover that right and wrong are more interchangeable than they thought and that it's difficult to know who to trust.
Whilst the film was an enjoyable couple of hours, the major issue I had was that the story was very unbalanced. There was quite a slow build, but during that time you find out very little about too many of the characters; they just all seem like pretty average people. By the time you get an important revelation about why Ludlow is how he is, it's too late to help colour your opinion of him. All the action and information was in the last 20 or so minutes of the film and you could have just had that and not really missed a great deal. This all happened at a point where I was starting to wonder if the film was ever going to reach its point, but after that it was an action packed thriller, even if the twist and double twist made it a little confusing in parts.
The pacing wasn't the only inconsistent thing about the film, either; the acting was also a bit hit and miss, although that's only to be expected with films of this type. Keanu Reeves as Tom Ludlow wasn't as wooden as I've seen him in other films, but I didn't have a clue his emotional state was supposed to be as fragile as it was until it was spelled out, as I didn't get that feeling from him. To be honest, his major contribution to the role was in the weight he has put on since I last saw him on screen, but even that didn't really tell me much about his character.
Forest Whitaker as Commander Jack Wander did a better job and his emotions were clearer to read in his acting, being expressed by his features and actions, rather than just by the volume of his voice, which seemed to be Reeves' main way of communicating them. By the end, I genuinely believed that Wander thought that what he was doing was justified, at least to himself. Whitaker didn't need to do a huge amount, but what he did have to do, he did very well. The same was just as true of Chris Evans as "Disco", although he had far more of the action scenes than Whitaker. His character seemed quite understated compared to Tom Ludlow and he was very much the junior partner, but you got to see some hidden depths to him the longer he was on screen and he was the one character who was the easiest to understand, as his motives seemed pure and consistent throughout.
The last of the major stars was actually the best, as you could see him changing from when he was trying to cajole Reeves and when he was arguing with Wander. Unfortunately, he was never on screen for very long at a time, so the quality of his acting wasn't around as much as I would have liked. The minor characters performed adequately enough as well. Most of them had only limited screen time and many of them are perhaps better known as musical performers, but there was nothing that stuck out as being particularly bad acting.
The script itself was OK, allowing for plenty of action sequences, some of which allowed for a bit of improvisation as a fridge, a spade and a shopping basket made an appearance as weapons, alongside the more traditional weapons. There was a particularly memorable sequence involving a hock and the driver of the car which wasn't as spectacular a sequence as you've ever seen, but which was good fun to see and didn't end in the most predictable of ways. Unfortunately, this wasn't always true and the fish tank riddled with bullets is now so old it barely registered.
What the script didn't really allow for was for the characters to express themselves. Where a death advanced the story, it was focussed on, but one later on which seemed more potent was very understated. The one cliché the film did manage to avoid was the smart comebacks when something happened, the kind of thing that "Hot Fuzz" took the mickey out of so well. Indeed, at some points it seemed that what the characters were saying was largely secondary, especially as you later realised you couldn't believe a word of it anyway. You won't come out of the cinema quoting lines from the film like you sometimes can, but in a film like this, that could be considered an advantage, as there are a couple of sequences at least that you won't forget. The idea seems to have been to make the film more a feast for the eyes than for the ears and it was that.
Film soundtracks are something I don't tend to notice too much unless they are particularly good or especially bad and the "Street Kings" one largely passed me by. There were some moments where it pricked the edge of my consciousness, but once the film really kicked into gear there was so much happening it didn't really seem all that important.
I did enjoy the film and it passed a couple of hours in the evening in an enjoyable enough way. Fortunately, I was able to take advantage of the Orange Wednesdays 2 for 1 offer, which made the ticket prices a little more reasonable. In these days of £7 cinema tickets, I'm not sure I would have been quite so happy had I paid that amount. For that reason, I would tend to recommend that this is a film you wait to see on DVD and then to rent rather than to buy, or even wait that little bit longer and wait for it to come on the Sky Movies channels, which I'm sure won't take too long. It's a film that's worth feasting your eyes on, but it's not really worth spending a lot of money on to do so and it's not worth dashing out to see immediately, merely when your path crosses with a showing.