STREET KINGS is the latest police thriller by director David Ayer, responsible for other police thrillers such as “Training Day” and “Dark Blue”. Police corruption has been the main theme for most police dramas, and this film is no different. The screenplay by James Elroy is full of intrigue and bleakness that delves into the dark side of the LAPD.
Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) is a cop on the edge, an alcoholic and would stoop to the most extreme measures to solve a crime; usually his suspects turn out dead. He does get the job done though, and is favored by his commanding officer, Captain Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker). As a result, Tom’s past sins have been covered up for years, he works tightly in a special unit and his existence is a melting pot of violence and death. One day, his former partner (Terry Crews) becomes an informant for Internal Affairs, is killed in a convenience store shooting. The incident had awakened some “intestinal fortitude” in Tom, and now he must find those responsible along with a young detective (Chris Evans). Little do they know that they are opening up a huge can of worms.
“Street Kings” does have all the elements I like in a cop film; it’s gritty, very violent and fast-paced. The film isn’t going to be recognized for originality, it has all the usual formulas we’ve all seen before; corrupt authority figures and the hunger for money and power. The film does do one thing right and it does convince the audience that it is worth watching. The heavy and mean dialogue combined with gunfights which are quite bloody and full of intensity, it has all the qualities of a film that any male movie fan would love. The director understands what he has set out to do, and he has structured the film to move as pure adrenaline as it goes through the insides and outs of the LAPD. The film is full of detail as to how and why the corruption is inherent in the “cop system”. It does give the viewer some reason to ponder why such action is maybe necessary, but not justified.
The screenplay plays a bit like a morality play as hotshot cop; Tom Ludlow goes through the workings of evidence tampering and cover ups. Tom’s character is a man who barely sees injustice due to the things he has seen; his phrase “Bad creates more Bad” actually sums up his bleak view of his world. The "Tom" character seems like a necessity in this bleak, cruel world; it does touch upon some moral issues but the action was its main focus. The script is full of “bad language” that it sometimes makes Tom’s use of complex terms a little out of place. Keanu Reeves is a decent actor in my book, but I did somehow see his limits with this role. The role is an emotional one, and though Tom is a drunk, I thought the complexities of his character should've been more fleshed out.
The film does have a complex plot and is quite intense, and this is where the problems begin. The film needed to breathe at times and relax and let all its complexities settle in. The unraveling of its main twist in the third act seemed a little too ‘cardboard’ that seemed to fail its maze of intrigue and controversy in the film’s set up. The film made a compelling point when it made the darkness of the police system come full circle, with a lot of paranoia and mistrust that suggested a strong clever resolution to all the mayhem. I expected something more than a climax full of cliché that is quite familiar in action films. Forest Whitaker’s final speech seemed a little too melodramatic that the film’s primary set up just didn’t match up. I would’ve expected for a movie like this to be much darker, but I suppose any ‘cop drama’ has to have some bits of a conscience.
It would be really difficult to express as to why I would say “Street Kings” is a very good film because honestly, it did have a lot of faults. Some parts of the investigation seemed a little too convenient and too easy, while the final climax seemed to lose much of its forward momentum when it proved less than stimulating as I’ve hoped for. However, I did enjoy “STREET KINGS”; it’s full of attitude, gritty action, violence and the sharp-tongued dialogue did convince me to look beyond its holes. Director Ayer knew the film’s limits and knew exactly what he needed to do in order to hide its flaws. It does provide an exciting ride while seeing through the eyes of a burned-out cop. The film is cleverly paced, and its action and grittiness will definitely see you enjoying its tough-guy thrills with a lot of bloodshed and body count.
"We're the police. We can do whatever the hell we want. It doesn't matter what happens; it's how we write it up." (Tom Ludlow) Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) is one angry and bitter cop. His wife died (not shown in movie) in a rather tragic manner, and her autopsy was mishandled by the pathologist. Unable to put it behind him, he drinks at every opportunity while functioning as the point man for an elite police unit headed by Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker). … more
David Ayer, who wrote TRAINING DAY, gives us another unflinching look at disillusionment and questionable decision-making within the ranks of the LAPD. Ayer's second directorial effort tells the story of burnt-out Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves), a functioning alcoholic and undisciplined detective with the Special Vice Unit. While so much of this characterization appears resonatingly familiar at first, we soon learn that the character here has been tweaked. While this loose cannon in no way does things by the book, he is also far from playing by his own rules. Ludlow is relied upon by the other detectives in the unit, and by their almost maniacally ambitious Captain Wander (Forest Whitaker), to go outside the law whenever needed. The infractions he is pressured to commit are quickly and uncomplainingly covered up by Captain Wander, while Ludlow and the rest of Special Vice receive accolades for their high clearance rate. Not until one of these cover-ups leads to the brutal murder of his ex-partner (Terry Crew...