Detective Tom Ludlow is in so deep that he’s about to come out the other side. The LAPD presented in Street Kings are part of a criminal justice system sans justice. Everyone’s a felon of sorts, even those who carry a badge. Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) has no qualms about shooting first and doing a little temporal shifting when it comes to filling out the report. He does it to save the innocent, of course… most of the time. Naturally, it becomes a lot more complicated when everyone involved is guilty.
Reeves does a good job, and from his recent work it’s clear he’s identified his boundaries as an actor (Much Ado About Nothing and Bram Stoker’s Dracula were definitely outside said boundaries). Taciturn, he only needs to furrow his brows and we get the general idea. Chris Evans and Forest Whitaker contribute solidly to this rather manly outing, and Hugh Laurie is a long way from playing the Prince Regent in ‘Blackadder the Third’.
Director David Ayer isn’t straying too far from his Training Day origins, and James Ellroy has his dirty paws all over this. It may be gritty and contemporary, but it shares a lot in common with Raymond Chandler – except Ludlow shoots his way from clue to clue, rather than simply relying on a trench coat and quick mouth like Philip Marlowe. It’s all pretty silly and not in the least bit believable, but it is enjoyable. Street Kings features some of the most casual depictions of immorality in recent times, but it doesn’t really seem to be condoning it – to paraphrase the script, blood doesn’t wash away blood.
The action sequences manage to be realistic yet fun, excepting for the fact that no one seems physically capable of actually killing Ludlow, no matter how many bullets. The film gets bonus points for using a fridge in a shootout, a whitegood that rarely takes centre stage in action films.
There’s very little in the way of backstory or subplot, and this keeps the film from getting overly dramatic. It wouldn’t take much to burst this Street King’s ridiculous bubble, but if you sit back and take it in without thinking too hard, it’s good enough to keep you occupied for a couple of hours.Rating: