Sunday, August 3, 2008

Review of Street Kings

This review as originally published in Home Media Magazine and is reprinted with the magazine's permission (thanks, John).

Street KingsPrebook 7/23; Street 8/19Fox, Thriller, B.O. $26.4 million, $29.98 DVD, $34.98 two-DVD set, $39.98 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for strong violence and pervasive language. Stars Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie, Chris Evans, Common, The Game, Cedric the Entertainer, Terry Crews.

From the man who wrote Training Day and S.W.A.T., Street Kings is not a surprising choice for David Ayer’s second directorial effort — a macho, violent cop drama with a hint of substance.

Reeves (“The Matrix” trilogy) stars as Tom Ludlow, a troubled, skilled detective whose investigation into the execution-style murder of his former partner (Crews of Get Smart) reveals scary truths about Ludlow’s fatherly boss (Whitaker of The Last King of Scotland) and the LAPD. Also on hand is alleged funnyman Cedric the Entertainer as a streetwise hustler who helps Ludlow’s renegade investigation, and Laurie (TV’s “House”) as a dogged internal affairs captain.

Street Kings has aspects that will appeal to fans of plot-driven detective stories such as L.A. Confidential (by James Ellroy, who also helped write this screenplay) and action-oriented, guy-pleasing favorites such as the “Lethal Weapon” or “Die Hard” series. However, those two aspects never properly meld. Street Kings moves too quickly and has too many subplots to work as a police-procedural drama, while Ludlow never emerges as a gung-ho everyman a la Martin Riggs or John McClane.

It doesn’t help that Reeves comes across as drowsy more than troubled, while Whitaker inhales the scenery, the dolly tracks, and everything else within range. Street Kings’ main appeal is its bevy of features — everything from alternate takes to short behind-the-scenes goodies.

Aspiring filmmakers should relish Ayer’s willingness to share. In the director’s commentary, he details how countless scenes were shot and describes the challenges of a 43-day shoot. Ayer even explains why featured deleted scenes found the cutting room floor. – Pete Croatto

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