Breaking the rules
Directed by David Ayer (Training Day) and based on a story by James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential), Street Kings promises big returns just from the opening credits. Keanu Reeves, who is often remembered by his Bill and Ted persona, may have finally shed it here, in his first big role since The Matrix trilogy.
He plays nuance here, and though his Capt. Tom Ludlow follows the fat cats’ orders and is known as one of their best (aka he’ll do what he’s told, regardless of who gets killed in the process), you can see a glimmer in his eye that maybe he’s not quite as caught up in the corruption as others might think. That glimmer grows brighter as the film progresses and, after getting ensnared by the vigilante justice system he begins to see it for what it is.
Following a sensational bust involving killing the bad guys, rescuing two enslaved young girls and planting evidence to make it look legit, Ludlow gets tangled between his captain/friend Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker) and Capt. James Biggs from Internal Affairs (Hugh Laurie).
Biggs has an eye on Ludlow. And it stares down on him after Ludlow finds himself on the scene when two gangbangers shoot one of his fellow officers to hell in an apparent convenience-store holdup.
Against orders to drop any investigation, Ludlow finds an unlikely partner in straight-shooter Det. Paul Discant (Chris Evans). Together they hit the streets to track down the officer’s killers, with help from OG Scribble (Cedric the Entertainer). They stumble upon a bigger case than they had imagined. Other unlikely but not altogether bad co-stars include hip-hop’s Common and The Game.
In fact it’s the more well-known actors who fumble. Cedric the Entertainer plays a hardened and less-funny version of himself in the film, while Laurie prefers one of his characters: Dr. House, minus the bum leg.
Their setbacks, however, are offset by the larger-than-life, bloodthirsty and greedy Wander, played flawlessly by Whitaker, and Reeves, the star of the show, whose character in the end is the only one who grows and changes from who he was at the beginning of the film.