Street Kings

Street Kings

2008, R, 109 min. Directed by David Ayer. Starring Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie, Chris Evans, Martha Higareda, Terry Crews, Jay Mohr, Cedric the Entertainer, the Game, Naomie Harris.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 18, 2008

Dirty cops are the kings of the L.A. streets, and no one knows that better than James Ellroy, the crime novelist who wrote the story on which this film's screenplay is based and for which he receives credit with Kurt Wimmer and Jamie Moss. It's a tangled, gritty story full of gunfire, blood, and vicious men (both on the side of the law and against it), and, for the most part, it's an absorbing policier. Curiously, the often affectless Reeves is well-cast as Tom Ludlow, a vice detective whose placid exterior cloaks a volatile temper that his captain (Whitaker) puts to good use whenever he needs a mad dog to take care of business using methods best kept under cover from the public eye. Like Dirty Harry, Ludlow functions better without things like Miranda laws and probable cause getting in his way, but he also does the kind of thankless tasks that makes him indispensable to his higher-ups who are willing to dispense with questions if Ludlow brings their messes to tidy conclusions. All that matters is what the situation looks like, how it's written up by the presiding officers: That's this movie's recurring refrain. Although the twisty details of Street Kings' story are the most involving aspect of the movie, director Ayer (best known as the Training Day scriptwriter) brings a tactile feel to the urban grit he portrays. Some of his imagery is rather worn, however, as can be seen in the film's opening sequence which introduces us to Ludlow, whose first order of business upon waking up in the morning is to throw up, next clean his gun, and then buy three airplane-sized bottles of vodka on his way to a sting. Also, Ayer seems unable to begin any new sequence without opening with an aerial shot of whatever building in which the action is taking place. Reeves, Whitaker, and Evans deliver terrific performances, as do many of the others, yet Whitaker is allowed to vamp for too long in a closing soliloquy. He's more a tragic Shakespearean king here than streetwise royalty. Despite its limitations, however, Street Kings is a solid contemporary crime drama.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More David Ayer Films
The Tax Collector
Shia LeBeouf goes full gonzo as the man that scares the gangs

Aug. 7, 2020

Suicide Squad
Suicide Squad is done in by its own hand

Marjorie Baumgarten, Aug. 5, 2016

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Happening
Stunning French tale of a woman seeking an abortion is depressingly timely

May 13, 2022

From the Archives: Organizing Outside the System – Deborah Shaffer and <i>The Wobblies</i>
From the Archives: Organizing Outside the System – Deborah Shaffer and The Wobblies
Our 1981 interview with the filmmaker behind the classic doc

May 3, 2022

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Street Kings, David Ayer, Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie, Chris Evans, Martha Higareda, Terry Crews, Jay Mohr, Cedric the Entertainer, the Game, Naomie Harris

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle