Los Angeles police officers are corrupt. Really corrupt. We get it Hollywood. Here’s yet another in a long line of films about corruption in the LAPD. Don’t believe the film’s misleading trailers. Street Kings is not a movie about cops cleaning up the streets. This is a movie about cops cleaning up after themselves.
Take Training Day and cross it with the FX television series The Shield, and you have Street Kings. Keanu Reeves plays Detective Tom Ludlow, a dirty cop who works with a team of dirty cops. The difference between Tom and the rest of his squad is that he doesn’t seem to realize he’s a sleaze. His commander describes him as “the point of the spear”, and they use him whenever they want to abuse their badges to have a bunch of bad guys executed quickly, cleanly, and without the reading of Miranda rights. Tom is pretty good when it comes to killing and his commander is even better when it comes to covering up for his wanton slaughter.
Things change for Tom when his ex-partner is murdered in what appears to be a random act of gang violence. Ludlow may be a point and shoot killing machine, but he’s also loyal to his brothers in blue. He’s rocked by the death of his partner, and when the department inexplicably refuses to investigate his killing, Tom takes it on himself to figure out what the hell is going on. For Keanu Reeves, that means a lot of looking bewilderingly constipated, something he’s pretty good at.
Making fun of Keanu Reeves’ limited acting range is kind of like throwing rocks at a retarded kid though, and I’ve always been a big supporter of his. Sure he has only a scant a few facial expressions at his disposal, but they’re good expressions, and when he’s put in the right situation Keanu Reeves really works on screen. Unfortunately, he’s not give much to work with here. He guzzles vodka from tiny airplane-sized bottles, but it’s more of an affectation than a genuine character flaw. Tom and Street Kings are both standard stuff. Another convoluted cop corruption movie filled with unlikable characters and a dubious anti-hero who is only a hero because he seems to think he is, or because he shoots first.
Some of the action is good, and Chris Evans is interesting as a minor character who doesn’t get a lot of play. Forest Whitaker huffs and puffs his way through the movie like a walking corpse, he’s good at looking like he’s about to drop dead from a heart attack. Unfortunately there’s not enough originality here to deliver anything better than a few cheap shootouts, and there aren’t enough action sequences to qualify Street Kings as a serious shoot-em-up movie. Director David Ayer seems to be trying to put together some sort of commentary on our violence soaked culture, but if he has a message it never quite comes through. Street Kings isn’t a bad movie, it’s just that it’s also not a very new one.