'Street Kings' A principled cop goes head-to-head with the department to expose corruption. As the body count climbs, so too do the stereotypes and plot holes, leading to a predicable climax that somehow doesn't quite make sense.
NPR logo 'Street Kings'

Review

Arts & Life

'Street Kings'

Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) has an angry, itchy trigger finger in Street Kings. Merrick Morton/Fox Searchlight Pictures hide caption

toggle caption
Merrick Morton/Fox Searchlight Pictures

Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) has an angry, itchy trigger finger in Street Kings.

Merrick Morton/Fox Searchlight Pictures
  • Director: David Ayer
  • Genre: Action
  • Running Time: 109 minutes

Watch a Clip

Prior to seeing Street Kings, I'd have said that writers James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential) and David Ayer (Training Day) were precisely the folks you'd want behind the scenes on a corrupt-cops thriller. Now I'm not so sure.

Separately idiosyncratic, the two have come up with a joint project (Ayer directing an Ellroy story) that mostly repackages genre cliches with an added dollop of violence. Keanu Reeves is the film's Charles Bronson-esque lead, a theoretically principled cop caught between boss Forest Whitaker and Internal Affairs detective Hugh Laurie as a scandal looms; he'll go to any lengths to expose department corruption, Reeves' character will, but apparently he sees no contradiction in faking crime scenes and coercing sources as he's doing it.

Bodies start piling up (rappers Common and The Game among them), as do stereotypes, as the film wends its way to a conclusion that's at once predictable and incoherent. Getting there would be more fun — Reeves seems to down a single-shot bottle of vodka every time he gets behind the wheel — if the plot didn't have holes through which he could drive whole fleets of squad cars.