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Review: Street Kings

April 14th, 2008

Street Kings

Street Kings movie poster


Street Kings is the latest movie made from one of crime writer James Ellroy’s stories. Based on a story written specifically for the screen by Ellroy and rewritten by Kurt Wimmer and Jamie Moss, Street Kings largely resembles the other movie that James Ellroy wrote specifically for film Dark Blue. Interestingly enough, David Ayer, the screenwriter of Dark Blue, is the director of Street Kings and one can see the many similarities between the two films. Both deal with police corruption and cops taking the laws into their own hands but Street Kings is a more visceral and grittier movie.

For the most part, Street Kings is predictable but enjoyable. We’ve seen so many of these corrupt cop stories from all the other Ellroy adaptations not to mention all those seasons of The Shield to be more than several steps ahead of the story. But the enjoyment of these potboiler movies is not the destination but the journey. In other words, it’s all in the execution and Street Kings is, for the most part, competently executed. The action sequences are tense and brutal and the characters are unapologetic.

Keanu Reeves in Street Kings

Keanu Reeves, always good when he taps into his inner rage like in The Gift, anchors the movie playing an out of control version of his cop from Speed. His character Tom Ludlow is a cop in a unit of worse cops who realizes that maybe his partners have gone a little too far. Forest Whitaker hams it up as the ringleader of the bad cops playing the character like a parody of his character in The Shield. Meanwhile, Hugh Laurie is one of the highlights of the movie every time he shows up playing an internal affairs officer who behaves a awful lot like Dr. Gregory House.

Where Street Kings falls apart is Forest Whitaker. There’s a saying that an action film is only as good as its villain. In this case, that’s not a good sign. Between Jay Mohr and his ridiculous pencil mustache as a renegade SWAT team member and Forest Whitaker’s overacting, the villains in this movie are about as believable as a Ralph Nader Presidency. It’s sad to see a good actor like Forest Whitaker overact more than Jim Carrey in an Ace Ventura movie and ruin an otherwise enjoyable, pulpy crime drama.

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