GENRE: Cop on the "edge"
THE PITCH: The LAPD's Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) — one of those Dirty Harry hotshots who doesn't play by the rules — risks implicating himself when he unravels cover-ups and conspiracies following his ex-partner's death.
MONEY SHOTS: "Shots" is the operative word, as Street Kings features several loud, propulsive gunfights, including one that involves an aquarium and a refrigerator. Ludlow and young helper Detective Paul Diskant (Fantastic Four's Chris Evans) chase one suspect down alleys, through houses, and over rooftops until he gets hung up in razor wire. The most squirm-inducing moment occurs when Ludlow fish-hooks a bad guy's cheek with an open police cuff. Ouchie!
BEST LINES: "You dress white, talk black and drive Jew," Ludlow tells a pair of Korean thugs before they, not surprisingly, give him a serious beat down. Ludlow's no more concerned with due process than he is with political correctness. At one point he threatens to take down some bad guys "off the books": "I'm talkin' shovels and trash bags."
WORST LINES: "You went toe to toe with evil and you won!" Ludlow's boss and mentor (Forest Whitaker) tells him. He's full of cop-flick clichés like, "Tom is a damn fine cop. He bleeds blue."
BODY COUNT: A dozen, including at least one Scarface-style machine-gunning. A shovel to the skull is the most creative weapon.
PRODUCT PLACEMENT: When Ludlow and Diskant shake down one informer (played by the Game), it's like a commercial for King Cobra. Bottles are visible in the fridge, the Game pours some on breakfast cereal, and he even has a tattoo of "40s" between his eyes.
SCENE-STEALERS: Jay Mohr plays one of Ludlow's colleagues, and we immediately suspect him because of his cheesy little mustache. Cedric the Entertainer has a brief role as an informant and is credited with his last name, Kyles. Hugh Laurie plays a sinister internal affairs captain. (As a fan of Laurie's brilliant portrayals of British twists on the BBC, I can't get over his new career playing American assholes like "House.")
POLITICAL SUBTEXT: A montage of citizen complaints against the LAPD overtly evokes Rodney King. The film asserts that "we need" violent, rule-breaking supercops like Ludlow, but portrays police culture as so rife with corruption that Ludlow's tactics seem more like a symptom of the problem than its solution.
PEDIGREE: Co-writer James Ellroy penned some of his generation's greatest crime novels, including L.A. Confidential. Director David Ayer wrote the script for Training Day, which won Denzel Washington an Oscar. Street Kings lacks the sharp characterizations of either.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A subplot with Ludlow grieving for his late wife and trying to connect to his partner's widow (Naomie Harris) never strikes sparks. Thin and predictable, Street Kings still proves energetic enough to hold your interest and features some credible little details about police work. But will people buy tickets to it when they can watch basically the same thing on "The Shield" for free?
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