"Street Kings" tries to go places other films have tread before, with less than stellar results. The performances donít gel in the way they should and the plot is predictable from the get-go.
Street Kings (2008, Blu-ray)
Directors: David Ayer
Producers: Lucas Foster
Writers: James Ellroy (story and script), Kurt Wimmer and Jamie Moss (script)
Features: * Digital Copy * Commentary * PiP Commentary * Featurettes * Deleted Material * Vignettes * Trailers
Keanu Reeves ... Detective Tom Ludlow
Forest Whitaker ... Captain Jack Wander
Hugh Laurie ... Captain James Biggs
Chris Evans ... Detective Paul Diskant
Cedric the Entertainer ... Scribble (as Cedric 'The Entertainer' Kyles)
Jay Mohr ... Sgt. Mike Clady
Terry Crews ... Detective Terrence Washington
Naomie Harris ... Linda Washington
Street Kings Blu-ray Review
How could James Ellroy, the writer of "L.A. Confidential" write such predictable situations and characters as those presented in "Street Kings," the rugged, but hollow crime drama from director David Ayer ("Harsh Times")? The simple answer is that heís paired with mindless hack, Kurt Wimmer. Wimmer, whoís responsible for "Blade/Underworld" rip-off, "Ultraviolet" and the Orwellian "THX" rip-off, "Equilibrium," doesnít have an original bone in his body. He occasionally bangs out decent scripts like "The Recruit" and even "Sphere," but heís usually paired with a team of other, better writers.
I get the distinct feeling that this was originally Ellroyís script and story and Wimmer was brought in for a quick polish. The end result--a film so embarrassingly predictable, it becomes tedious once you figure out the filmís cheap and illogical twists long before our narrow-minded hero, Detective Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves), does.
"Street Kings" follows a band of good, but corrupt cops whoíve worked their way up the police chain by lying and cheating their way through the red tape of basic police work. Tom Ludlowís morally righteous ex-partner, Washington threatens to turn Tom into internal affairs. Just as Tom attempts to confront Washington about his actions, Washington ends up mysteriously gunned down, with one of Tomís own bullets lodged into his neck. Did Tom shoot Washington on purpose? Was this event staged? Can Tomís conscious handle an innocent manís death?
All are interesting questions, most notably when they were examined in Chris Nolanís taut, thoughtful, suspense-drama, "Insomnia." There, we witnessed the same exact plot; the major difference was how the characters worked. That plot served more as a metaphor for the nature of both good and evil while remaining true to the filmís noir roots. With "Street Kings," the film gets wrapped up in a clumsy second act mystery in which Tom Ludlow and rookie detective Paul Diskant (Chris Evans) attempt to figure out who was behind Washingtonís unfortunate murder. Anyone with half a brain should be able to figure just who is behind this mystery long before the mystery actually unfolds. Unfortunately, the film drags along spreading this tiresome subplot as thin as it can get before it finally unravels into a completely illogical and frankly, stupid place.
Sometimes itís shocking how a film of such hollow proportions could garner such a tremendous cast. Unfortunately, no one is really used to the best of their abilities. Just like the directorís previous work, "Harsh Times," David Ayer nabs several great actors, but canít seem to get them to work towards one cohesive whole. Reeves is out of place as Ludlow. His soft, muddy, mundane voice never creates tension or emotion, making his character uninteresting and unsympathetic. Whitakerís police captain is so profanely over-the-top it borderlines on comical. Hugh Laurieís zany take as a quirky I.A. detective is fun, but too comical considering the dark nature of the plot. The best performance comes from Chris Evans, who is quickly becoming the Roy Scheider of our generation--he can shape himself to fit any environment and heís competent, even when heís in obvious B-grade material. The rest of the cast is filled with solid B-players, rappers and comedians like Cedric the Entertainer and Jay Mohr, who all add little to the film.
"Street Kings" tries to go places other films have tread before, with less than stellar results. The performances donít gel in the way they should and the plot is predictable from the get-go. David Ayerís direction is certainly taut, but itís wasted on a vapid script. "Street Kings" may prove an enjoyable evening for some, but a frustrating one for many others.
Film Report Card:
Entertainment Value: B-
Film Value: C-
Fox presents "Street Kings" with a sharp, 2.35:1 widescreen transfer at 1080p/AVC stretched across a BD50 disc. Detail and depth is strong, colors are dead-on as are fleshtones, but this transfer isnít entirely overwhelming. Perhaps itís the black levels, which are a bit too dark with objects bleeding into one another. There are virtually no specks of dust and I spotted no grain to speak of. Again, this is a solid A- transfer, but the annoying black level issues mar the overall presentation.
"Street Kingís" DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track wreaked havoc with my system causing me to recalibrate everything. Four hours and a massive headache later and I swear this disc did something to my speakers and to my system--it just doesnít sound the same. At first, the audio mix crackled and popped with all high end vocals, but surround effects sounded great. After calibration, the crackles and pops were gone but my center channel seemed messed up a bit, but only with this mix. If anyone else experiences problems with this mix, please email me and let me know. Iíll contact Fox about the issue.
What I experienced after calibration was an incredibly bass heavy track riddled with muddy dialogue, thanks to Keanuís subdued performance thatís largely uttered under his breath. The film boasts finely tuned, aggressive surround effects that never dominate the film. The filmís score is also finely mixed, never overbearing or too faint to hear. Again, Iím not sure if this film caused calibration issues with my system, but if anyone experiences problems, let me know.
"Street Kings" comes to Blu-ray with a decent assortment of special features. The disc comes with a Digital Copy of the film for your portable media player.
ē Commentary -- Featuring director David Ayer, this track proved better than the film. I found Ayer quite engaging, loading his track with excellent trivia bits and fascinating stories about the production, the original script and the post-production phase. This is a solid commentary well worth listening to.
ē Featurettes -- Four featurettes total, running about 40 minutes. Some of the material is fluffy, but overall, I found these supplements to be fun and interesting. The best of the pack is a featurette about the real cops that served as inspiration, and technical advisors, on the film.
ē Vignettes -- Roughly 12 minutes of behind the scenes footage detailing smaller aspects of the production. Good stuff, but far too brief.
ē Deleted Material -- Running over 40 minutes, weíre treated to a slew of alternate takes, deleted scenes and outtakes. Some of these scenes are great, others not so much. Frankly, I liked all of the character bits that were here, namely the backstory with Keanuís character and his girlfriend. The Forest Whitaker bits are mostly skip-worthy.
ē Trailers -- For this, other Fox titles and "Mirrors."
Fox delivers only one HD-exclusive track, but itís a good one:
ē Under Surveillance PiP Commentary (profile 1.1 players and above) -- This is one of the best video commentary tracks Iíve watched in a long time. The track marries both text trivia with video interviews and behind the scenes footage. Thereís little repeat info here and videos and trivia appear frequently making this one well worth watching, even if youíve already trolled through all of the other special features.
The film is presented in a blue "Elite" case and is pretty consistent with newer Fox titles.
Predictable and dumb, loaded with over-the-top performances or performances that are too restrained; "Street Kings" is just not firing on all cylinders. The Blu-ray disc however, is, sporting a solid transfer, great special features and an awesome HD-exclusive video commentary. If you like the film, this disc is well worth checking out.
Blu-ray Report Card:
HD Content: B
Recommendation: Worth Renting.
On DVD and Blu-ray Disc: August 19, 2008.
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----R. L. Shaffer