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

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews - MICHAEL DWYER

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”.

Orig­i­nally ti­tled

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.

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