A very thin blue line
STREET KINGS Directed by David Ayer. Starring Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, Chris Evans, Hugh Laurie, Naomie Harris, Martha Higareda, Jay Mohr, John Corbett, Amaury Nolasco, Cedric the Entertainer, Common, The Game
release, 107 min
16 cert, gen WHEN detectives are the principal characters in contemporary US thrillers, they are almost invariably moulded from the same prototype: the hard-drinking loner without a partner in his personal life, with a maverick approach to dispensing justice, and on a rocky road to redemption. Tom Ludlow, the flawed hero of
is a Los Angeles vice squad detective right out of that screen gene pool. When we first see Ludlow, he is pasty-faced, sunken-eyed and vomiting after he struggles hungover out of bed. He is impressively played by Keanu Reeves, now 43, finally putting his boyish looks behind him, and barely recognisable in that scene. Ludlow, we learn, is grieving the death of his wife three years earlier, and he drinks day and night, even guzzling miniature bottles of vodka when he’s driving on duty.
We witness Ludlow’s unorthodox modus operandi when he unflinchingly guns down seedy Korean criminals who have abducted two teenage girls. “We’re the police,” he says. “We can do whatever we want.” Capt Wander (Forest Whitaker) tacitly approves Ludlow’s policy of shooting first and asking no questions, and tries to protect him from the zealous internal affairs officer (overplayed by Hugh Laurie) who describes Ludlow as “the last of the ghetto gunslingers”.
is based on the first original screenplay from crime novelist James Ellroy, who set it in the aftermath of the Rodney King beating, although it has been updated to the present by the two writers who share the screenplay credit with him.
Director David Ayer, who scripted the gritty and made his directing debut with the taut, nervy evidently shares Ellroy’s fascination with corruption and abuse of power in the LAPD. Given their track records, the combination of Ellroy and Ayer ought to have produced a more potent urban thriller than
which is disappointingly obvious and conventional in its narrative structure and saddled with would-be hard-boiled dialogue that rings hollow.
Ayer proves more effective at orchestrating the movie’s many violent action sequences, which are staged to the accompaniment of Graeme Revell’s grand dramatic score.