What are we to make of the sleek, standard-operating-procedure cop thriller Street Kings? Its plot is little more than a sketchy outline, a narrative crafted like a domino effect that we’ve come to know and potentially love (but definitely expect). Keanu Reeves (whose trademark vacant gaze suits his character’s sociopathy) plays a sadistic undercover cop with questionable morals who, while attempting to avenge his ex-partner’s death, comes to realize that the entire LAPD is even more corrupt than he is. The utter lack of character insight and depth could be interpreted as a weakness, but at the same time King’s bulldozer-like approach keeps it moving at a swift pace, something lacking in so many recent films. Its “surface-only” aesthetic also seems completely deliberate on the part of writer James Ellroy, whose career is steeped equally in contemporary cop lore and the urban mythology of post-WWII Hollywood (L.A. Confidential and The Black Dahlia). Essentially, the film feels like a pulpy late-40s noir made on the cheap, only with a couple of multiplex “names” (Reeves and Forest Whitaker) and an assortment of eccentric co-stars (Cedric the Entertainer, Jay Mohr, Hugh Laurie, Common and The Game).
Opens April 11