Street Kings is a film that quickly forgets what it tries to do. Racism is brought up at the beginning of the film, as is the lead characters abuse of alcohol due to him mourning his wife. The racism issue is brought up at the beginning of the film, where an undercover Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) is talking to two Korean gang members. Snippets of dialogue are thrown at each other, making it seem like the race issue is going to be brought up for the majority of the film.
This holds true a few minutes later as well, where Ludlow is talking to one of his former police partners, who just so happens to be African-American. His old partner accuses him directly of being racist, a comment that Ludlow takes to heart, sarcastically agreeing with the comment, before coming close to hitting the man. He is stopped by police Captain Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker) though, and is taken to a hospital. Tom is drunk, as we were shown earlier, and for reasons not touched upon by the film, seeing him like this would harm his image. Maybe an alcohol-related incident occurred prior to us showing up.
At the hospital, we begin to doubt how much corruption is on the police force. We meet another Captain James Biggs (Hugh Laurie), this time the one of internal affair. He makes indirect threats towards Ludlow, and the two do not part on good terms. Fast-forward a few days, where Tom is still mad about the run-in with his old partner. He confronts him in a corner store, which ends up getting robbed. His partner dies in the robbery. Ludlow then decides to spend the rest of the film hunting down the men who killed his old partner.
It is a revenge film, at its core. There are quite a few plot twists throughout though, almost enough to keep the story interesting. Sadly, they aren’t quite intriguing enough to keep you entertained. Maybe it was because I kept hoping that the issues brought up at the beginning of the film would come around full-circle, but they didn’t. Yes, Ludlow still drinks when he shouldn’t, and there is one scene that touches on his possible racism a tad, but for the most part, these things are ignored for the film’s main subject matter, one of police corruption.
It seems that everyone, from our lead to his best friends, is all corrupt on one level or another. This is what Street Kings has to say. “A good cop is hard to find” just about sums it up. Even more importantly, a good cop that doesn’t completely follow the law is one that is important to have. Ludlow doesn’t follow standard police procedure, or at least, doesn’t very often. He’s a character that you can assume will end up being the bad guy of the film, even when he’s killing the ones that we, at that point, believe to be evil.
Keanu Reeves plays Tom Ludlow, and he doesn’t show that he has any emotional range with the role. Granted, not much emotion is called for in the role, or much for the film itself. It is a production almost entirely devoid of emotion. We don’t care about Ludlow, or his quest to find his former partner’s killers, because we haven’t been given reason to. Why does he even care about tracking down the killers? He was going to break the man’s jaw anyway.
The side characters aren’t interesting either. Hugh Laurie plays the almost the same character that he does on House, This will make fans of that series feel special, as they will notice the similarities immediately, but the character doesn’t get enough involvement with the story to really matter. The police Captain is a bland character, barking orders while still being an overall nice person. He also doesn’t show up all that often, and when he does, he vigorously defends his main man, while berating and accusing all others.
The only interesting character ends up being Tom’s partner, Disco (Chris Evans). While he doesn’t have much depth, the contrast between him and Ludlow ends up being the most interesting development. There is some chemistry between the two actors, and the differences between the two adds some spice to an otherwise dull film.
The worst films to me are the ones that are boring. I can usually tolerate poor acting or a lackluster story if there is at least something entertaining going on. Street Kings, violent as it is, just isn’t all that exciting. Things go “boom,” and people are shot, but there just isn’t much that to care about. For the most part, the film is boring, and that is my biggest gripe about it.
Street Kings, despite having a large number of action sequences, falls flat in being a testosterone-infused action flick. This is mostly due to the fact that there is no character that you will care for and no plot point that will matter. The film doesn’t even seem to care much, forgetting about the important issues it brings up at the beginning, instead choosing to focus on the corruption in the police force. There just isn’t much to care about in this boring film.