Street Kings goes over old ground, but with swagger and style and a sense of authenticity unusual for a studio production – particularly one starring ‘Mr Woah’ himself, Keanu Reeves. David Ayer follows his underrated directorial debut Harsh Times with another LA story and, though he hasn’t taken a writing credit, there’s no doubt the script has been through the salty filter of a former Navy man who grew up in South Central. What’s more, it was originally brewed in the mind of the City of Angels’ most devilish crime writer, James Ellroy (who has a co-writer credit) – and though it’s hardly LA Confidential, it shares the same compromised, conflicted characters, drenched in sunshine but living permanently in the grey zone.
Reeves is certainly no Christian Bale, but he commits convincingly to the role of Tom Ludlow, a vodka-guzzling, by-any-means-necessary kind of detective – “the tip of the fucking spear”, as his boss, Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker), puts it.
When Ludlow massacres a household of kidnappers, internal affairs (in the form of Hugh Laurie’s – yes, Hugh Laurie’s – desk jockey) is on him like a fly over shit. Then his old partner (Terry Crews) is machine-gunned into beef patty and our anti-hero has to find the perps before he’s fitted up... There’s no doubting where the story is going and the stupidity of Reeves’ cop quickly becomes frustrating – one character might as well have EVIL BASTARD tattooed across his forehead – but it’s still well worth journeying through the mean streets of this pungent, pugnacious crime picture. Extras unavailable at press time.