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Street Kings A Fair Entry Into The Dirty Cop Genre

Street Kings
Directed by David Ayer
Written by James Ellroy, Kurt Wimmer, and Jamie Moss from a story by Ellroy
Fox Searchlight, 2008

Writer/director David Ayer has a track record of gritty crime flicks, ranging from his screenplays for Training Day, Dark Blue, S.W.A.T., and his directorial debut, Harsh Times. Here, he unites with L.A. Confidential’s James Ellroy, so you know that the cops are just as bad as the crooks. The “dirty cop” genre has been played to death for awhile, and even when it’s not specifically the movie’s theme, it sometimes creeps up as a surprise in other movies. Street Kings, therefore, has a job to do in order to distinguish itself.

Detective Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) is a bad cop, the sort of territory encouraged by his captain Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker). After a decidedly not-by-the-book rescue of two underage would-be Korean prostitutes, Ludlow finds himself being investigated by Internal Affairs by one James Briggs (Hugh Laurie, somewhat unable to shake that House persona in this flick, but it still works). Wander, along with other cops Mike Clady (Jay Mohr) and Cosmo Santos (Prison Break’s Amaury Nolasco), have gotten wind that Ludlow’s former partner, Terrence Washington (Terry Crews) is snitching about a lot of Ludlow’s behind-the-scenes activities.

This sets Ludlow to confront Washington, a bad thing since right after an argument, Washington is gunned down in a convenience store by two hoods, something that could enter Ludlow into a world of suspicion. But Captain Wander, as always, is able to write up the incident in a way that makes Ludlow look like a hero. Ironically, Ludlow becomes a low-level Internal Affairs bureaucrat until the mess gets cleaned up.

Ludlow knows that the Washington killing wasn’t coincidence, so he teams with the investigator on the case, Paul Diskant (Chris Evans), who believes Ludlow wasn’t behind the shooting. Some good old-fashioned police work combined with Ludlow’s usual bending of the rules leads them up the ladder to the ultimate villain.

If you’ve seen this type of movie before, you know where this is going to go. I would say it’s par for the course. There is some decent action. It’s kind of a condensed version of L.A. Confidential in a way, taking out complexities in favor of a straightforward action/thriller. It’s not bad, not great. A good attempt overall.

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