A gritty crime-drama with a loaded cast and a well layered story-line that takes you deep into the the seedy streets of Los Angeles.
An undercover vice cop, still reeling from the loss of his wife finds himself implicated in his ex-partners murder, and with a sudden feeling of righteousness decides to keep digging into the case everyone tells him to stay away from.
This is still one of my favorite crime-dramas and until “John Wick” my favorite Keanu Reeves film, yes despite loving “The Matrix”. The cast was excellent and extremely deep with familiar faces making the most out of their smaller roles and cameo appearances. The layering of the story-line was deep but not overly done maintaining the ability to feel the plot unfold with a nice pace and cohesion. The script is gritty, well-paced and felt realistic which helped connect the viewer to a film that really had no protagonist, yet created characters that make you want to stick around to see where the story will take them.
Keanu Reeves was fantastic in this film and people may give him a hard time for some of his performances, but he felt every bit the part of a cop whose moral compass was in desperate need of calibrating. Reeves portrayed a confident, highly capable, yet at times, docile cop who doesn’t seem to worry about much as long as his Captain played by Forest Whitaker assures him all is okay. It comes across like he is a pet to the captain, and it managed to create and interesting dynamic among the vice unit and their all in, or all out mentality of doing it for the ‘team’.
Forest Whitaker was also excellent and felt perfect for the role. You can feel the intensity of his performance in all his scenes whether it was through his glaring expressions or his tense dialogue. Some of Whitaker’s lines comes across as preachy but it all works to build how his character can manipulate people and situations with ease and is how he has worked his way up the ranks for years. For me, details like these are what made these characters connectable despite their unsavory actions. It all adds up to a grim tone for a script and for this film it was perfect.
The script was easily able to add many layers to this story by building connections to all of the characters. There is a past between all of these men and with years of time spent around one another everyone knows the others dirty secrets and personal tendencies, and it results in some great onscreen posturing between them. Director David Ayer once again shows his skill in the genre creating a dark, somber cop tale that really has nothing positive in its message and because of this comes across as very raw, realistic and even more, it was interestingly plausible.
This seemed like a story all about bad guys, with the only difference being some of the bad guys wear badges and it came across at times as, riveting cinema. Even after seeing this film many years ago it still holds its validity today and it can lure ones attention, with solid writing and excellent performances. With such a large cast there was a nice balance among them as the plot makes many twists and turns along the way and uses each of the characters effectively.
Chris Evans was a great addition for a side character as the young cop with a cowboy mentality and his back-and-forth’s with Reeves were compelling and laughable when needed. Looking back he may have been the only really kind-hearted character in the story, which in itself was interesting to think of how easy it could be for the corrupt to overpower those with ethics in a law enforcement system that was broken.
Whitaker and Reeves worked extremely well off one another and convey the strong bond between them although you can feel problems in its stability early on. This commands some attention on its own as you can clearly see Whitaker’s character is determined, but are unclear of this motives. It was interesting to see how he had such control over the group and as the story progresses and you find out why, it helps make some pieces of the narrative drop into place filling in bits of information.
In the end “Street Kings” is a great crime-drama. It delivers strong performances, perfectly placed doses of action with violently realistic, un-stylized shootouts that add much appeal. Reeves was at his best in this role and feels every bit the part of a detective who is burnt-out and wound so deep in his anti-procedural actions that he finally breaks. The cop drama that unfolds in this film is entertaining, riveting at times, and definitely worth a viewing, as well as a nice shower after to rinse the unsavory feeling this moody script gives you.
– Starring –
Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie, Chris Evans, Jay Mohr, John Corbett, Amaury Nolasco, Martha Higareda, Cedric the Entertainer, Terry Crews, Naomie Harris, Common, Game, Noel Gugliemi, Clifton Powell
– Directed By –
Time: 109 min
MPAA Rating: R (Strong Violence and pervasive language)