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What should I focus on about Street Kings:  the weak performances from solid actors, the messy screenplay or the film’s lack of morality? Whatever, because in the end, all roads lead to the conclusion that Street Kings is a movie you won’t mind missing.

LAPD cop Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) gets caught up in the murder of his ex-partner who was snitching on dishonest cops-including Tom. Captain Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker) is afraid people will think Tom had something to do with the death, and more and more information is hidden about what happened that day. Tom knows his life is in danger, and he wants to seek revenge for his ex-partner’s murder.

The movie wants to be good, morally speaking, but the screenwriters don’t seem to be able to lay out the moral ground rules of the film which, in effect, come off as contradictory. It’s okay to beat up suspects if doing so is in the name of “justice”? There’s nothing wrong with covering up evidence from crime scenes? The film seems most schizophrenic at the end when Captain Biggs (Hugh Laurie)-who doesn’t appear too much otherwise in the movie-pretends as if nothing has happened and lets Tom go free. None of this would be a bother if the story had more of an “anything goes” attitude, but the film consistently pegs people as “right” or “wrong,” and it only grows more hypocritical as the movie keeps rolling.

Reeves can be great when playing a surfer/stoner type (Parenthood, River’s Edge) or a mellow “nice guy” (Something’s Gotta Give, Thumbsucker), but he doesn’t do anything special here. Whitaker used to be strong and dependable (Good Morning, Vietnam, The Crying Game), but once the Academy gave him an Oscar for his over-the-top performance in The Last King of Scotland, he started picking poorer roles and began to overact even more. Two average performances don’t seem that damaging, but they do make some of the preachy dialogue more ridiculous, and at least one of these unconvincing characters is always on-screen.

When the credits rolled at the end, I felt as if I had just watched something merely average. Even though it didn’t arouse hatred, Street Kings tries to be a morality tale but lacks a conscience, and I find that alone despicable. A few audience members seemed to get a little too excited during scenes of gunplay, no matter who was on the receiving end of the bullet. Maybe it’s just their Pavlovian response to “street justice,” but that’s still not a valid excuse. Even though kids can’t see the R-rated movie, there are some crazy-enough people 17 and older that will find the action here a little too cool and might take it beyond flickering images on the silver screen.

Rating: 4/10

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2 Comments

  1. Good luck in your future, Joey. My wife and I both went to UNO (and lived near campus until Katrina) and I am friends with a couple of Driftwood’s ex-film critics.

    I’ll be sure to keep my eye on your blog. :-)

  2. I agree with only your first paragraph and you last sentence and thats aboout it. I enjoyed the film the action was Bananas and the conflicts were of lots of suspense. Hey im an action kind of guy and street kings I recommend this film to any action freak!


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