Street Kings (Fox, 2008) D: David Ayer, w/ Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NN
Some movies work better on the small screen. Director David Ayer's eye-level moving camera and violence-as-chaos action scenes deliver more tension and realism when they're up close. He likes big close-ups, too. Conventional wisdom says that's a good thing on the small screen, but when the subject is Keanu Reeves, maybe not so much.
Reeves plays Tom Ludlow, a depressed, alcoholic, self-righteous LAPD detective prone to blowing away baddies without due process. Close up, we can see the alert, thoughtful actor behind a character who, if not actually stupid, is at least profoundly unthinking. Kinda blows the illusion.
Internal affairs, in the person of Hugh Laurie (doing something you almost never see - a hard-boiled desk jockey), goes after Ludlow for killing a fellow cop. His boss (Forest Whitaker) covers for him, but things keep getting worse. Violence and plot twists abound.
If you saw The Black Dahlia or L.A. Confidential, you'll recognize Street Kings as the classic nihilist-noir world of James Ellroy (he co-scripted it 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.
Oddly, for an extras set largely devoted to proclaiming the movie's realism, Ayer's commentary doesn't explore real-life corruption. He's got a few interesting remarks on police procedure and a good conversation with ex-cop and technical adviser Jaime FitzSimons, but you can skip the mini making-ofs - they're more ads than docs.
EXTRAS Director commentary, director and tech adviser Jaime FitzSimons conversation, writing-of doc, actors doc, eight mini making-of docs. Widescreen. English, French, Spanish audio. English, Spanish subtitles.