Unfortunately for me, we went to see Street Kings on Sunday.
Now don't get me wrong. If you happen to fancy lame dialogue, over-the-top acting, and a glut of violence and racial slurs, Street Kings is right up your alley (a dark, heavily-littered, graffito-tagged alley I'm sure).
The anti-hero du jour in this gritty cop drama is Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves channeling Dirty Harry), an alcoholic LAPD detective who's not only willing to go outside the law to get the job done, but prefers to. When his former partner (Terry Crews) is shot down by “unknown” assailants shortly after attempting to expose the police department's corruption and highly questionable methods, Ludlow starts sniffing out the culprits, whose identity is painfully obvious to us, yet not so for the street-wise but somewhat clueless Ludlow.
Street Kings is co-written by James Ellroy, author of L.A. Confidential, which was so perfectly brought to the screen eleven years ago by Curtis Hanson. Do not be fooled. Unlike Hanson's classy crime drama, Street Kings is insistently loud and frantic, and scrapes along with dialogue that often makes you wish the deafening gunfire would just keep going. True, it has energy and intensity enough to rival L.A. Confidential, but director David Ayer fails to refine that energy into something more digestible, especially as the film slams into the third act. It rampages forward like a runaway locomotive being derailed, crashing spectacularly off track under its own momentum.
Bear in mind that the crash is, as I've put it, “spectacular”, and Street Kings does have its moments. I was also surprised that one of the movie's strongest attributes is Keanu Reeves, whose wooden face and coarse voice fit the archetypal good/bad cop character like a glove. But even his smart casting can't save this semi-laughable, overblown thriller.
While Street Kings manages to entertain on a very basic level with plenty of gory violence, it lacks the discipline and restraint necessary for a truly memorable cop movie. “NO OSCAR FOR YOU!”
** out of ****