(2008) dir. David Ayer
Street Kings is the latest film from director David Ayer, who made his name in Hollywood by writing about the tough streets of contemporary Los Angeles, raising his star most prominently in the Oscar Awarded Training Day (2001) which earned Denzel Washington his award and good credits to Ethan Hawke, too. I’ve still never see it. I did, however, catch Ayer’s directorial debut, Harsh Times (2005), which was a pretty tough, gnarly story of a psychotic ex-military man returning the the “city of Angels” to get a law enforcement job, only to be too crazy for anyone except for the Office of Homeland Security. A pretty interesting story, study, and hung on the intensity of Christian Bale, it was one of those films that kind of came and went, but was better than a lot.
Street Kings, which has the additional “street cred” as a story originally from L.A. noir Modernist James Ellroy, who also took a pass at the screenplay too. But, instead of the typically intense, yet typically believable Christian Bale in the lead, we have Keanu Reeves playing the tough bad mad-dog bad cop with a drinking problem and a missing moral center.
To Keanu’s credit, when he’s not speaking, he’s a lot more effective of an actor.
But when he does speak, he sounds as dumb as a bag of hammers. He’s just not capable, really, of this kind of a role, one in which realism and morality really are the crux upon which the film turns. The film itself is there. It’s a good story of corruption and then Corruption and then CORRUPTION in the L.A.P.D. But Keanu, though he tries, just is too weak to make it work.
The rest of the casting varies greatly. Forest Whitaker is strong, as are a couple of others. But the casting is spotty across. I think it’s the film’s biggest weak point. And while Ayer is not a bad director, he’s also not necessarily capable of making do with these weaknesses necessarily.
It’s a shame. There is a good movie here, or almost here. It’s not an utterly wasted effort. Reeves looks okay for the part, a bit more haggard and aging, possibly world-weary. But then he talks. Maybe he was meant for the Silent era.