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"Street Kings"

Directed by David Ayer (writer of "Training Day" and "The Fast and the Furious").
Written by James Ellroy.
Starring Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, Chris Evans and Hugh Laurie.
Release Year:  2008
Review Date:  4/10/08


I'm telling you, I always love seeing "urban" films with an "urban" audience...and, with the free showing tonight of the new Keanu Reeves thriller "Street Kings" at the Regal in Chinatown, you got that perfect storm of a lot of black people onscreen, a black radio station sponsoring the free screening, LOTS of black people in the audience, and a lot of vocal muthafuckas in the house!!!

All of this might make "Street Kings" better than it really is, but with a cast as loaded as this one, performances that are top notch and writing that is occasionally brilliant/hilarious, you might still enjoy yourself even in a quiet theater.  Reeves plays LAPD Detective Tom Ludlow, a long-time veteran of the force that has been doing so much dirty-dealing in his time with the force that he has no problem carrying out an undercover mission to take down Korean thugs to open the film, the result of which is the rescue of Asian twin girls being held hostage by said thugs.  The result is big news in LA, where Ludlow's commander, Captain Wander (Forest Whitaker), receives a promotion as a result, another in a long line of promotions thanks to Ludlow's strong efforts.  When Ludlow's former partner (Terry Crews) is killed in a convenience store robbery--right when Ludlow is about to beat that partner down for snitching on him to Internal Affairs--Ludlow discovers a conscience he thought he didn't have, and takes up with a forensics officer (Chris Evans) to try and find the two men that killed his ex-partner.  Hi-jinks and double crosses ensue.

There were so many familiar faces in "Street Kings" that you can't believe they had the budget for all of them--in addition to the aforementioned actors, we get folks like Common, Jay Mohr, Cedric the Entertainer, Naomie Harris, John Corbett and freakin' "House"--Hugh Laurie--plus we get guys like Clifton Powell, one of "those guys" who has like a hundred film credits...the casting team on "Street Kings" did a great job of collecting this group of actors/actresses and putting them all into the same profanity-laden flick.

The dialogue for "Street Kings" is its strongest asset; it does have some tense moments, and while the action is brief, it is well performed.  Sure, you've heard many of these lines hundreds of times before, but let loose by Laurie or Whitaker or anyone else, they are more effective here.  The movie drags out what should be a fairly straightforward case by giving us some filler--most notably, a random party scene where Ludlow and his pals are hangin' by the pool at Wander's house one night, chatting about nothing in particular--and that hurts it more than it helps it.  Also, you get completely unnecessary rapper cameos, like when The Game shows up for essentially one scene, then gets gratuitously beaten with a phone book for what feels like a full minute.  (Come on, don't we have a CASE to solve?)  Sorry, not workin' for me!

But, overall, Meg and I thought that "Street Kings" was fun--completely escapist urban fare, with a tough soundtrack matched with tough, profane dialogue.  Hell, I had to write this review tonight, because I'll have forgotten half the movie by the time I wake up tomorrow!

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09