Street Kings (2008) - Special Edition
|Genre(s): Crime / Drama|
|Fox || R - 109 minutes - $34.98 || August 19, 2008|
|Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2008-08-02|
Writer(s): James Ellroy (story), James Ellroy and Kurt Wimmer and Jamie Moss (screenplay)
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie, Chris Evans, Cedric the Entertainer, Jay Mohr, Naomie Harris, Common, The Game
Theatrical Release Date: April 11, 2008
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A corrupt cop in a corrupt police department, where everyone looks out for everyone else and ignores when one of their own goes a little rogue. This isnít Training Day 2, but itís close enough.
Street Kings stars Keanu Reeves as Detective Tom Ludlow, an L.A. cop in a dirty system. But heís no angel and goes along with the culture of the department and those he works with such as his boss, Captain Jack Wander (Whitaker) and other colleagues (including Jay Mohr). His ex-partner of 17 years is talking to I.A., headed by Captain Biggs (Laurie; TVís ďHouseĒ), who is also squeezing others on the force.
Things go sideways after Ludlow, following ex-partner Terrence Washington (Crews; Get Smart) with the intent of beating his ass at a convenience store, stumbles upon a 211 (robbery) in progress as two men armed with heavy-duty machine guns come in and shoot the place up, killing Washington in the process. With one narc dead, and itís only a matter of time before the killers will off each other, Wander doesnít see the point in taking the case further as now. Of course, Ludlow canít let it go. Even though his friend and partner for so many years was about to turn him in, heís persuaded by his conscience and his girlfriend to pursue the case.
Helping on Ludlowís quest is Detective Paul Diskant (Evans; Fantastic Four). Diskant was assigned to ďsolveĒ the case (i.e. make it look good and leave Ludlow out of it), but he finds common ground with Ludlow to find the killers and bring them to street justice.
Street Kings certainly has quite the cast to it. Forest Whitaker makes yet another somewhat underwhelming performance since his Oscar winning role in The Last King of Scotland (though his work in The Great Debaters was very good), but here heís in a thankless role with a character that is fairly paper thin in background and his motives are all too obvious and meant to be some kind of twist. The film also co-stars Jay Mohr in a smaller role; Hugh Laurie in yet another thankless part; Cedric the Entertainer as a pusher who helps Ludlow and Diskant; Naomie Harris (Pirates of the Caribbean) as Washingtonís widow; plus Common, The Game and John Corbett as a singing quartette (no, not really). Itís a shame Common wasnít in this more (probably only 5-minutes of screen time) because he probably was the only actor in the entire film that was actually even remotely interesting.
And this brings us to Keanu Reeves, an actor who doesnít show many angles in his performances and also has limited voice inflections or emotions. Listen, I like Reeves, I really do and I think in certain movies he can excel (The Matrix and A Scanner Darkly), but playing a bad ass character? I think not.
Directed by David Ayer (writer of The Fast and the Furious and the upcoming Fast and Furious), he goes into the same territory explored in his directorial debut, Harsh Times (psychology of an LAPD cop) starring Christian Bale, Freddie Rodriguez and Eva Longoria. This film is a less gritty in style than Harsh Times, but the substance is at times just as dark. Itís not that Ayer canít tell a story, but what is there has been done many times before and maybe better (or at least in the case of Training Day, features a powerhouse performance). I understand his desire to go back to the well as his screenplay for Training Day was great, but I think that well is running a bit dry now. Itís his luck that he can get top notch actors or else movies like Harsh Times and Street Kings would be strictly direct-to-DVD material rather than ordinary theatrical films.
Street Kings is a middle of the road movie with some solid performances surrounding a predictable story by James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential), Kurt Wimmer (Ultraviolet) and Jamie Moss (debut). I canít honestly say thereís anything in this film worth watching for. Reeves is, well, Reeves and Forest Whitaker displays some charm, though his character is obvious from the beginning. Street Kings isnít a failure (there are far worse movies out there), just one not really worth the time.
The movie is rated R for ďstrong violence and pervasive language.Ē It grossed a total of $26 million in the States ($61.8m worldwide) on an estimated $20 million budget.
Feature Commentary Ė Director David Ayer sits down for a solo track and he starts out with how he came onto the project (when Keanu Reeves was already interested/attached) and a couple drafts of the script done. Ayer also goes into decisions he made with the script or filming in locations heís familiar with. Itís actually a decent track that wouldíve been helped a little with another person in the room.
Deleted Scenes (11:34) Ė The DVD includes 15 deleted scenes with optional commentary by Ayer. Thereís nothing of note with any of them, just more scenes between Reeves and Whitaker with o
ne warning the other to back off, etc. (Non-anamorphic widescreen) Alternate Takes (28:26) Ė This one is a little more interesting getting to see the different ways certain scenes were filmed with alternate dialog as well. Most fascinating was a revelation during the climax that, unless I missed it, was removed from the theatrical version. Now, I say fascinating, but including it wouldíve taken this average film to the depths of film purgatory. In all there are 10 alternate takes. (Anamorphic widescreen)
Street Rules: Rolling with David Ayer and Jaime FitzSimons (17:27) Ė Director Ayer and best friend/technical advisor Jaime FitzSimons literally roll around Los Angeles chatting about how certain parts of the city are today in comparison to the past or FitzSimons talking about working with Keanu Reeves, telling him stories about his days as an officer for the L.A.P.D. (Full frame)
The disc also has a few featurettes about the making-of the film:
First is L.A. Bete Noir: Writing Street Kings (5:01) covers where the story comes from and has interviews with 2 out of the 3 writers and others involved. Street Cred (3:51) covers the supporting cast and features Common, Cedric the Entertainer and others talking about the subject and/or their characters.
There are also four vignettes (total running time, 7:52): Crash Course (1:27) covering the stunt work; Heirs to the Throne (2:14) which are more interviews with Common and others; Inside the Vice Special Unit (1:42) which features comments from the main cast (Reeves, Whitaker, Mohr, etc); and Training Days (2:27) focuses (all so briefly) on the cast going through a police boot camp. (Full frame)
The ďBehind the ScenesĒ section are merely four more very short segments (total running time, 3:54): In Training (1:05), Car Rig (1:14), Squibs (0:48) and On Set (0:47). Given each ends with the filmís release date, I can only assume these were made and aired on the Internet and/or TV. (Full frame)
Finally theyíve included what I assume was the red banner theatrical trailer (1:46). (Anamorphic widescreen)
.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.
The disc I received is a watermarked screener so I cannot accurately rate the video. That said, the 2.35 transfer looked, at least to me, pretty good. I assume the final product will be even better so if/when I receive a final disc, I will amend this review.
I normally would rate the audio as the tracks for screeners and final discs probably are the same, but I thought it was fairly underwhelming and felt the final disc should be given the chance, seeing if the audio was even a little better.
Street Kings is pretty much an average movie. Keanu Reeves may be a good actor when the script is right, but here he seemed to be slightly miscast. The supporting cast, however, are decent enough and elevate this slightly above direct-to-DVD territory and, if you have nothing else to watch, makes for a rental, but nothing more.