Street Kings

Year: 2008
Production Co: Regency Enterprises
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Director: David Ayer
Writer: James Ellroy/Kurt Wimmer
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie, Chris Evans, Cedric the Entertainment, Jay Mohr, Naomie harris, The Game
There's a distinctive genre this film belongs to - the cop drama where nobody's hand are clean, which reminds us that cops are people with loves, lives, difficulties and hatreds that threaten to get in the way of the safety we pay them to provide us.

You'll be familiar with the tone of Street Kings from movies like Dark Blue, Narc, Training Day, and to a lesser extent LA Confidential, which was showier and more cartoony than other gritty cop dramas. The film opens with slightly unhinged detective Keanu Reeves making contact with a Korean crime gang, ostensibly to sell them guns, but in reality to trace them to their mansion hideaway to rescue two young girls they've kidnapped for their twisted amusement.

Ludlow (Reeves) kicks the door in, blows all the suspects away in cold blood and emerges a hero after rescuing the girls. It sets the tone for the rest of the film - the only difference between the killers of this war is whether they're holding a badge or not.

Under the wing of bombastic unit commander Wander (Whitaker, hamming it up just a little too much), Ludlow is safe from scrutiny, but learns there's an Internal Affairs investigation on him anyway, courtesy of faux-friendly superior Biggs (Laurie). When Ludlow goes to give his former partner and hated enemy what for after ratting him out to IA, the two walk into the middle of a store robbery where Ludlow's partner is executed.

With no alibi and a cover story nobody believes, all the evidence points to him, the third round found in his former partner's body seemingly the result of Ludlow's intending to kill him.

He falls further into the murky world of his unit's activities trying to sort out the truth and clear his name, taking smart but idealistic detective Diskant (Evans) with him.

Nothing is as it seems until the last few scenes, when the conclusion is fairly predictable (everyone you thought was your friend is your enemy and vice versa), but it has a hard-nosed, gritty feel missing from fare with much bigger budgets that invariably portrays police officers as indestructible, lovable ruffians made of iron-clad moral fibre (John McClane, anyone?)

The dialogue and vernacular of police procedural is a little hard to follow courtesy of director David Ayer (who also wrote Dark Blue) and James Ellroy (LA Confidential), but it feels real, with a tone the whip-smart performances complement.

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