Thursday, April 10, 2008

Street Kings

A cop is turning in this tense and somewhat insider's view of L.A. police. An excellent line-up of writers including James Ellroy provide director David Ayers with corruption, crime and even a little redemption. Ayers has written some well heeled police dramas himself and the tone of Training Day, Dark Blue and Harsh Times is not lost on the characters scrambling to stay alive in Street Kings.
Keanu Reeves takes the lead and never lets go despite worthy turns by Forest Whitaker in alpha mode, a smarmy Jay Mohr (where has he been?), Chris Conner showing he can walk the walk with Keanu and even a non-comic role for Cedric the Entertainer. Hugh Laurie and Terry Crews round out a suspect list that includes internal affairs and turncoat rat finks. It's easily Reeves' most confident role since the Matrix.
Street Kings starts with an adrenaline fueled set piece where Reeves dispatches a house full of Korean gang members who've kidnapped children in addition to their other petty crimes. Reeves and his immediate boss, Whitaker, cover up this bit of Dirty Harry action within the confines of their vice squad activities. Instantly internal affairs is all over the incident and a string of cops in other divisions (Crews, Conner) become involved in both a cover-up as well as other rotten to the core activities that form the basis of a powerful third act. Before the screen goes black all the pieces fall into place. Ayers directs with plenty of violence but it's not the kind of Antione Fuqua honed violence that made Training Day so over the top. Street Kings is level in that aspect.
Don't get me wrong, this is a violent film - the hook in the cheek scene will leave you cottonmouth. But the film makes a point in starting with big face offs only to conclude in one on one stand downs.

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