Street Kings

Street Kings

(2008)
Street Kings (originally titled The Night Watchman) has had Spike Lee and Oliver Stone attached to direct in the past but eventually landed with the writer of Training Day. The script is co-authored by written by modern crime writing great James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential and The Black Dahlia).

Set on the mean streets of LA, this hardnosed crime drama stars Keanu Reeves as Tom Ludlow, an LAPD veteran. Ludlow's life becomes cheerless and dark after the death of his beloved wife. After being framed for murder by those close to him, he is forced to go up against corrupt cop culture. Getting entangled as he tries to prove his innocence, Ludlow tries to find meaning in a world that is increasingly controlled by outside forces.

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Flicks Review

It’s been a while since we’ve had a decent LAPD drama. Street Kings provides a welcome return to the slums of South Central, where gangsters, pimps and corrupt policemen roam amongst the convenience stores and chicken-wire fences.

Keanu Reeves plays Tom Ludlow, an LAPD veteran who becomes a bit of an ‘on-the-edge’ alcoholic after the death of his beloved wife. After being framed for murder by those close to him, he is forced to go up against corrupt cop culture.

Whilst occasionally veering into a familiar ‘Bill and Ted’ approach, Reeves manages to be an engaging presence as the hard-assed vigilante. Forest Whitaker is much better as his charismatic boss, Captain Wander. There’s also good supporting work from Chris Evans as the all-American rookie, and House’s Hugh Laurie as the police chief.

The story is by James Ellroy, a respected crime enthusiast who wrote ‘L.A. Confidential’ and ‘The Black Dahlia’. But the adapted script can’t hide the feeling that the deeper thematic concerns of the original novel have been jettisoned in favour of a straightforward thriller plot. For example, there is material about racism here, black vs. white (“What happened? We used to be brothers.”), which is never expanded upon.

If there’s a minor weakness, then, it’s to do with the way Street Kings seems to sacrifice tone and colour in favour of a focussed plot. The early Korea-town shoot-out and subsequent fallout, in particular, feels a bit paint-by-numbers. There’s often a sense that even the dialogue is only there to serve storyline rather than enhance character.

This very violent film intendeds to be gritty and realistic, and largely succeeds, but is occasionally let down by some silly hard-boiled detective dialogue. The overall story arc is predictable, but director David Ayer provides the film with sufficient focus to hold viewer attention.

Street Kings is a decent morality play; lean and focussed. It is attractively shot, and provides the best look at after-dark Los Angeles since Michael Mann’s Collateral.


The Peoples' Reviews

Average ratings from 8 ratings, 8 reviews
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Exciting action packed & good to see a bita real life alcoholism!!!! Keanu with the no f#*king around shoot now ask later approach!!! highly recommended!!


Saw this with low expectations. only get 34% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Is better than that.Not great but certainly worth a look especially if you are a fan of James Ellroy Keanu Reeves or Forest Whittaker


BY Ken-Burns superstar

went to see it on tight wad Tuesday and found it nasty. Good to see Keanu again as now he is no Pointbreak/Bill and Ted/Matrix star. Stereotyped racist characters with drugs and guns but an ok ending


Boring, predictable remake of all those cop movies where a "beyond the law" cop is out for revenge.


Three stars is generous for this movie, a straight by-the-numbers renegade cop uncovers police corruption story, but two stars seems unfair too. We enjoyed this, it did what a good movie should do and took us in, but we picked the twist after about five minutes.

The dialogue was pure action movie rubbish and really took away from the great "look" of Los Angeles that the director captured. The product placement, particularly of Reeves' V8 car, was painfully obvious (though somewhat... More effective - great car!). The two dimensional characters were almost parodies (especially Reeves' drinking...please!).

This movie was billed as a Keanu Reeves return to form but the film itself lets down his work. Fun but predictable and forgettable.Hide


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The Press Reviews

36% of critics recommend.
Rotten Tomatoes Score. More reviews on Rotten Tomatoes

  • Another mean, violent and decently acted slab of Ellroy-flavoured criminality, with an impressively battered Keanu Reeves, but Ayers is no Curtis Hanson. Full Review

  • In Ellroy's original scenario "Street Kings" was a period piece, set in the 1990s just after the Rodney King riots. I wonder if it would've made more sense that way. As is, it unfolds in a present that feels dislocated and artificial, where everybody talks fancy-gangster talk while turning the mean streets even meaner. Full Review

  • It’s easy to laugh at “Street Kings” for its bigger than big emotions, its preposterously kinky narrative turns and overwrought jawing and yowling, but there’s no doubt that it also keeps you watching, really watching, all the way to the end. Full Review

  • If you're looking for some big, stupid fun, you could do worse than Street Kings. Full Review

  • "Kings" covers familiar territory but does so with ruthless efficiency, intense performances and a densely packed plot designed to highlight the moral issues that most concern Ayer and Ellroy. Full Review

  • Wastes a moderately intriguing premise by filling it with laughably clichéd dialogue, one-dimensional characters and implausible turns of events. Full Review

  • Brutal look at police corruption that allows director David Ayer and "L.A. Confidential" author James Ellroy to pool their deeply cynical insights. Full Review