13 April 2008 | Quinoa1984
sometimes kind of ridiculous, but it holds the attention and stirs the pot a little
I didn't go into Street Kings expecting a masterpiece, and I didn't get one. What I did expect is what I got, more or less: a competently made corrupt cops drama that throws on some heap-loads of stereotypes (not just racially or ethnically but just movie stereotypes, which may possibly be true to form them), and even crazy hysterics. If there is any significant achievement it's in taking the cop movie into such depraved depths it's like looking at a very entertaining infected boil: you know it'll pop any minute, and the pus might just run out a little bit here and there till there's more to squeeze out. There's almost an underlying current of hopelessness that gives the movie some intellectual lift, but at the same time it's such a time-waster that unless you're hardcore fans of the actors it's just about worth a rental.
Keanu Reeves goes from wooden to soggy-bottom wood as a cop who has been doing some dirty tricks to catch the bad guys lately (like setting up two Koreans- who are bad dudes for sure- by having them jack his car and then catching up with them to pop caps in their behinds), and he might be ratted out by his former partner. But when his partner is killed in very conspicuous circumstances, he goes to investigate it further while on a quasi-probation for even being at the scene of the crime (the crime, by the way, has one of the cheesiest "don't die on me" moments I've ever seen, laughably bad in how it's executed, no pun intended). Now, the conclusion shouldn't be at ANY surprise to anyone in the audience who's at least seen ONE other work by James Ellroy, the film's co-writer.
What does give it just a bit of extra lift is the extreme quality of the conclusion, how things seem so ridiculous that in any other hands this would be total nonsense. David Ayer, the director (and writer of Training Day, the perennial new millennium corrupt-cop saga), does have a good handle on the material though, even with ham-bone performance; Forest Whitaker is one of them, sadly, as he basically retreads his persona from The Last King of Scotland as the "King" of the corrupt cops. There is some not too shabby work, like a nearly phoned-in-from-House performance from Hugh Laurie (not unappreciated if you are a House fan), but it's mostly from supporting players like Jay Mohr in odd mustache and Common, the rapper, as one of the 'thugs'. It all kind of blends together as a pulpy orange of a B movie, good for something to not ponder too long over, but not as horrible as you might expect for a genre piece. It's a flavor of the season.