Street Kings

The movie boils down to a lot of tough-talking men trying to out-tough-talk each other. It's well-staged action stitched together by nonstop pissing-match dialogue. Reeves plays corrupt cop Tom Ludlow, and just to let you know how badass he is, in the opening sequence he drives drunk, racially offends a few Korean hoods ("How am I supposed to know you're Korean? You dress white, talk black and drive Jew") and stages a shooting.

Movies like “Street Kings� are sitting ducks in a shooting range for film critics who laugh all through the movie only to condemn it for being so damn entertaining. Most movies are so sedated by studio interference, creative indifference, or artless craft that when a movie comes along with style and a real no prisoners attitude, it’s looked upon like a neighbor whose party went on past midnight. Well, “Street Kings� is the kind of movie that parties past dawn, turning the volume way up, and apologizing for nothing.

Apparently this type of behavior is common among Ludlow's frat-like L.A. police squad, which is lorded over by the imposing Captain Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker). Ludlow's on bad terms with his ex-partner (Terry Crews), who thinks he's a racist and now works for Captain Biggs (Hugh Laurie, still basically playing House), Wander's rival, who specializes in rooting out crooked cops.

The plot synopsis makes the film sound like some kind of serious drama about “life on the streets�. Yeah, right. That’s just the background noise for a movie that’s all about being bold and crazy and finding out which actor can shout louder than the other. I think Forest Whitaker wins that prize, with an eye-rolling performance that’s just a little bit less sweaty and angry that his Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland�. He’s like a black Lon Chaney uninformed that the days of silent movies are over. A movie like this comes with flaws aplenty. The approach can be said to be over the top, the acting to be hammy, Jay Mohr’s mustache can be said to be distracting, the story full of holes, the Bond villain scene with Whitaker absurd and Ludlow’s escape near the end to be physically impossible (unless he was trained in swinging shovels into skulls while handcuffed and lying on his back). And honestly, what’s with the Korean guy in his tighty whiteys and the Kato mask? (That may be my favorite shot of the year so far. What WAS this guy into before engaging in a shootout?) But, c’mon, who really cares? Any resemblance to reality is clearly VERY coincidental.

It’s a throwback to 50s hardboiled B-flicks by guys like Aldrich and Fuller and in lots of crazy ways reminds me of Aldrich’s absolutely gonzo war drama “Attack� with Jack Palance, an actor who would’ve fit in perfectly with this cast. The film makes no apologies for its violence and profanity and Ludlow doesn’t go straight in the end. What I love about the movie is that instead of the usual cop drama where the characters have to find evidence to bring the bad guy to justice, Ludlow is just trying to kill the right people. He kills a lot of the wrong ones along the way but doesn’t seem so broken up by it. When the credits rolled, I felt exhilarated by the blunt pulpiness of it all. And although I may have missed something, I’m still wondering if someone let Jay Mohr out of the trunk.


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