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Review: Street Kings

Street Kings
04.11.2008
6 10

Plot: Keanu Reeves plays Tom Ludlow, an unorthodox L.A cop hunting the men who killed his ex-partner. At the same time, he also finds himself the target of Captain Briggs (Hugh Laurie- HOUSE!), a relentless Internal Affairs investigator who harbors a grudge against Ludlow's friend and mentor, Captain Jack Wander (Forrest Whitaker).

Review: STREET KINGS is a pretty generic cop thriller. Ever since TRAINING DAY won Denzel Washington an Oscar back in 2001, it seems that every big Hollywood star wants their shot at playing a tough inner city cop- and now it's Keanu's turn. All in all, STREET KINGS is not a bad film- it's fairly entertaining- but there's absolutely nothing about it that sets it apart from the dozens of cop films that have come out in the last few years. Basically- if you've seen TRAINING DAY, DARK BLUE, NARC or any episode of THE SHIELD, you seen this movie.

That's not to say that I didn't enjoy STREET KINGS. I must admit, as the son of a former Police officer, I grew up hero worshipping cops, and was raised on a steady diet of cop films. Something like STREET KINGS is right up my alley- but I was very disappointed by the fact that STREET KINGS adheres so closely the generic cop film formula. I honestly can't believe that James Ellroy, the master of cop fiction, is behind this film. It's like someone went out, rented a bunch of cop flicks, copied down every cliche- and incorporated them into this "script". Vengeful, loner cop hero- check! Greasy Internal Affairs investigator- check! Tough police captain that yells a lot- check! Rookie fresh faced new partner who gradually wins over our embittered hero- check! It goes on & on. Heck- Keanu even gets to use the patented "stay with me, you're going to make it!" line- twice!.

Hell- even the title is generic! I mean, C'mon- STREET KINGS? What the hell kind of title is that? It reminds me of STREET KNIGHT- which was a Jeff Speakman vehicle from the nineties centering around- you guessed it- a tough loner cop who doesn't play by the rules. Up until a few months ago- this film was called THE NIGHT WATCHMAN, which is a little confusing, as there's no night watchman present in the film. I guess it was supposed to be metaphorical- but whatever. At least is sounded better than freakin' STREET KINGS! They should have just called this film TOUGH LONER COP- even that sounds better than STREET KINGS!


What saves STREET KINGS from the junkpile is the fact that, despite it's complete lack of originality- it's actually a pretty well made film. Director David Ayer, in addition to writing TRAINING DAY, also directed the criminally underseen HARSH TIMES (featuring an absolutely bad ass Christian Bale performance), so this guy obviously knows his stuff. He really knows how to capture the inner city, street vibe- and that lends itself nicely to this type of film. He also stages the action scenes well. In these types of films- there's always a drug deal gone sour shoot out- and Ayer stages this one very well. It one point, a fridge is used in way that I've never seen one used before- so some kudos are due.

The cast is also top notch- although Keanu Reeves would not exactly be my first choice for a film like this. Despite that, as Reeves gets older, and his pretty boy looks start to fade, I find it easier to accept him is a larger variety of roles. He handles the numerous action scenes well- and plays a decent screen cop (although he's no Eastwood). The only real problem with Reeves is that it takes his character way too long to piece together the plot- which is painfully obvious from the start.

Supporting Reeves is the always reliable Forrest Whitaker as Reeves's possibly sinister boss, and Chris Evans as Reeve's new, inexperienced partner. We also get a slew of rappers in minor roles, with Common & The Game popping up in minor roles. While The Game isn't likely to become the next matinee idol, I find that Common is actually a pretty decent actor (he was one of the few saving graces in the trainwreck that was SMOKING ACES)- and I wish he had more screen time. Hugh Laurie pretty much plays House as a cop, and doesn't have a heck of a lot to do here.

While it certainly doesn't break any new ground, and isn't in any way memorable- STREET KINGS is nonetheless a fun two hours of entertainment. There's not a heck of a lot of testosterone laden fare out there until IRON MAN opens May 1st- so I'm sure their are some action junkies out there that will appreciate this.

Grade: 6.5/10

Source: JoBlo.com

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