Thanks for checking out our Street Kings Review. If you’d like, you can also watch this review in a video version at the bottom of this post.
Unless the film has the word “Matrix” in it someplace, long gone are the days when putting the name “Keanu Reeves” on the poster gets even the slightest amount of interest or excitement from me (if those days ever existed at all now that I think about it). Still, I’m a sucker for gritty cop movies, I think Chris Evans has a lot of potential and when was the last time Forest Whitaker turned in anything less than a solid effort? So despite the name “Keanu Reeves” being at the head of the poster, I’ve got to admit that Street Kings has had my attention. Was that attention warranted? Meh, not completely.
THE GENERAL IDEA
Keanu Reeves plays a tough street smart cop (don’t they always) who works with an elite unit in the Los Angeles Police Department (headed by Forest Whitaker) that quietly is willing to work outside the law in order to get things done, and then cover up their improper methods to make everything look legit. However, when one of the former members of this unit (and Reeves’ former partner) decides that what the unit is doing is wrong, he starts to rat the unit out to internal affairs and then is latter shot to death in an apparent store robbery, Reeves is driven to seek revenge against the criminals who killed his former partner by any means necessary. As he investigates the killing, he realizes the murder was more than just a simple hold up gone wrong. Together, he and an internal affairs agent played by Chris Evans begin following the clues, busting some heads and breaking some rules trying to find out just what the hell is going on.
I know it’s predictable and almost cliche to say great things about Forest Whitaker’s performance in just about any film he’s in… but it’s the truth so I’ve got to do what is cliche and predictable. Whitaker has an ability to take just about any material that is handed to him and add so much character, passion (when called for) and power to it, that even if the movie or script is bad, he’ll FORCE his part to be something valuable and worthwhile in the film. Whenever the film feels like it’s starting to drag a bit, Forest Whitaker shows up on screen an instantly grabs your attention again. Easily his performance was the best part of the film.
If you’re going to attempt to make a “gritty cop film”, then you simply MUST have an intense and gritty feel (seems obvious I know, but how many times have we’ve seen these types of films flat out fail at this part?). Right from the opening credits of Street Kings the director David Ayer (who also directed Harsh Times and wrote the screenplays for films like Training Day, Dark Blue, Fast and the Furious and U571) does a solid jobs of creating that tense atmosphere throughout the film. It never feels too glossy which is a good thing.
The film is FAR from a comedy, but there were several moments and one liners in the film that had me laughing out loud (in a good way). I don’t have a lot of respect for Keanu Reeves as a performer, but I will admit that dry, sort of monotone cluelessness he brings to just about every single one of his characters does work pretty well in an environment like Street Kings when he drops funny lines.
If you’re going to make a film (be it a comedy, cop film, legal drama or sci-fi adventure) that has a mystery to be solved at its core, you absolutely can NOT let the resolution to that mystery be so completely obvious that 90% of the audience has the whole thing figured out by the time you hit the 20 minute mark of the movie. The air of the unknown makes every revelation and discovery throughout the film a hook that keeps the audience coming along with the movie for the ride… but when the outcome is so plainly and painfully obvious, those revelations and discoveries become nothing more than time filler between them and the end credits. The answer to the “mystery” in Street Kings is so transparent that I have a very hard time believing anyone in that theater didn’t have the whole thing figured out by the time they where half way through their popcorn (I’m usually done mine 10 minutes into the movie). As a matter of fact, I found myself internally screaming at Reeves’ character for being such an idiot and not figuring the whole thing out himself by the end of the first act.
The first half of the movie sets up the story fairly well, but from that point on so many of the situations and scenarios are so completely forced and ask the audience to stretch their imaginations and limits of believability so far that you just find yourself losing interest because apparently common sense means nothing in the Street Kings world.
Some of the dialog is horrendous. I just can’t say much more than that.
This one kills me, and ultimately totally killed the movie for me. When the “bad guys” are so “bad” and so evil and so debase that you feel like you’re watching an 80’s cartoon show. Films like Street Kings work when their characters are more realistic, and in the real world, even the “bad guys” have some areas of moral grey, some sense of struggle and some sense of conflict. Good people can do the worst things… bad people nightmarish unthinkable things… but they’re still human and not 1 dimensional cartoon characters who twirl their mustaches while titling their heads back laughing “MMuuuhahahahaha! Now I shall rape the babies in the hospital, kick pregnant teens in the uterus and cancel Christmas! MUUUHAHAHAHA!” Street Kings was already starting to lose me for all the above mentioned transgressions, but this is the one that made me close the book on the movie.
With a solid cast and an decent (if not original) premise, Street Kings had the potential to be a worth while film. A good opening and some witty dialog gets your hopes up for the first part of the film, only to have the massive failures of the movie start to become more and more conspicuous as the movie progresses. A painfully obvious resolution to the “mystery”, some horrible dialog and laughable villains end up making Street Kings not worth your $10. Overall I give Street Kings a 3.5 out of 10.
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