STREET KINGS (David Ayer) 108 minutes. Opens Friday (April 11). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NNN
If you saw The Black Dahlia or L.A. Confidential, you’ll recognize Street Kings. It’s the James Ellroy nihilist-noir world (he co-scripted from his original story) where, individually and institutionally, the cops are out of control and corruption isn’t something that’s infected the system. It is the system.
Keanu Reeves plays detective Tom Ludlow, alcoholic, depressed and prone to blowing away baddies without due process. It’s a role perfectly suited to Reeves, requiring him to squint, brood and appear if not actually stupid, then profoundly unthinking.
Ludlow’s buddies and squad leader (Forest Whitaker) are always ready to cover up for him, even when the internal affairs captain (Hugh Laurie doing something you almost never see – a hardboiled desk jockey) goes after him for killing a fellow cop. After that, Ludlow looks for justice and the movie gets a lot more violent and simple-minded.
Director David Ayer (Harsh Times) sticks to eye-level moving camera. He’s competent, but apart from making the violence appropriately ugly and chaotic, does little to enhance the fun.In the end, the anti-integrity of Ellroy’s world is retained but without his sense of lives, minds and souls destroyed. Street Kings’ residue feels not much worse than something nasty on the bottom of your shoe.