Friday, April 11, 2008

Street Kings

“We can get these guys!”

Detective Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) is a problem solver. Part of a specially trained unit put together by his boss (Forest Whitaker), Tom is asked to do the dirty work which needs to be done.

Tom’s life gets complicated when a former member of the unit (Terry Crews) is killed while he is tailing him and looking for payback. Tom instantly becomes part of an Internal Affairs investigation led by Hugh Lurie (without a cane), is forced to destroy evidence, and begins questioning his role as a cop as he searches for the killers who no one wants found.

This film, based on a story by James Elroy, has been passed around Hollywood for years before landing in the lap of director David Ayer. What he gives us is an okay action flick which wants desperately to also be a stark drama, for which they cast Keanu Reeves. Reeves does what he can with the material, but he isn’t able to elevate it to make it mean something more.

At least it’s better than Ayer’s last attempt at a self-destructive cop on the edge (read that review).

Should Tom be saved? Should he win the day? The film never answers, or even asks, this basic question. Given his recent past he certainly doesn’t deserve to win, and the film gives us no real reason to root for the character other than the fact that he’s a bad ass and we need cops like him to break every rule in the book to keep society functioning (a conclusion which the film starts with and never tries to back-up with silly stuff like evidence). The film never decides how bad of a person, or how good of a person stuck in a screwed-up situation, Tom is. And if the film doesn’t know, how is the audience to decide?

There are some nice moments here and there, but the film is closer to a Steven Segal flick than something like last year’s American Gangster (read the DVD review). Street Kings isn’t a bad film, it’s simply one which you’ll see coming. If you’re looking for an action flick with some nice stunts, gun play, and fair acting (also with plot twists, bad dialogue, and main character you never care for) you could do worse. Just take a clue from the makers of the film and keep your expectations low.

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