"Street Kings" rules the box office

April 17, 2008, midnight | By Sean Howard | 13 years, 6 months ago

Police thriller revitalizes "corrupt cop" genre

Every cop drama hinges on one theme: cops are human too - from "Training Day" to the "The Shield." "Street Kings" successfully takes this overused theme and shapes it into a fresh cop movie about a policeman's notions of the world around him.

Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) a corrupt, disillusioned Los Angeles cop and his boss, Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker) frequently bend and break the rules of police conduct. They intend to deal with crime in a way that they believe is more efficient and deserving towards those who break the law. In order to keep their methods secret, they routinely lie in police reports and manipulate evidence to cover up for their transgressions.

Unfortunately for Ludlow, Terrence Washington (Terry Crews), Ludlow's former partner, does not approve of this radical way of dealing with crime and reports his actions to Captain Biggs (Hugh Laurie), who starts an investigation against him. Ludlow goes to confront Washington in a convenience store and their altercation gets to blows. The situation worsens when two masked men walk in and unload shells on Washington. The footage from store camera supports the investigation's suspicions of Ludlow as obstructing justice, for which he could go to jail. Ludlow must avenge his former partner's death, find out why he is being investigated and find out what is really going on behind all the smoke and mirrors of the Los Angeles Police Department.

"Street Kings" is eerily like the movie "Training Day," sharing the key filmmaker David Eyer as director and producer respectively. Both movies take place in Los Angeles, involve corrupt cops, contain extreme violence and have an egotistical main character who sees himself as above the law. Although these similarities seem to scream of unoriginality in "Street Kings", it manages to hold its own with excellent acting, screen play and a beautiful plot.

"Kings" also goes a different route by having a starry cast of secondary characters from Hugh Laurie, Common, Cedric the Entertainer and The Game. Hugh Laurie's performance felt as if Dr. House was doing a cameo. When Laurie's character first appears in a hospital, (hint hint wink wink), the only thing missing was the signature limp. Although it is jarring to see Laurie with a new job and no beard, his performance as a cynical, distrusting investigator of corrupt cops is appropriate and well done.

Reeves on the other hand, is made out to be "the one", the "point on the end of the spear" and like in so many other movies he's done, this one-ness can get in the way of enjoying the movie. It's almost as if it's impossible for Reeves to play a role without being a complex, mostly silent, stoic character.

The movie's greatest gift though is the concept of "the cookie jar", this recurring idea of corruption, ego and pride that comes with being a police officer, the idea that because one has more responsibility than regular citizens, one has more rights than citizens. All the actors do an excellent job conveying the conflict of interest between upholding the law and taking what is so easy to take.

In truth, while there is almost nothing new in this movie in concept, its star cast and solid action still make a film worth seeing.

"Street Kings" is rated R Rated R for strong violence and pervasive language. It is playing in theaters everywhere.

Sean Howard. There is a spy among us and his name is Sean Howard. Originally from Dallas, Texas, Sean moved to Germantown prior to his current residence in Gaithersburg. Although he has now lived in Maryland for most of his life, he has retained his loyalty to … More »

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