Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Street Kings


So I continue my foray into the theatrical releases this week as a break from the Festival proceedings, and choosing Street Kings is a no brainer. It was in Speed that Keanu Reeves donned a kevlar vest and a devil may care attitude to save a speeding bus from annihilation, and after that he's gone on to other blockbusters such as the Matrix trilogy and countless of other romance movies. Here, he revisits that action genre as a cop with questionable morals, and while some may gripe over his acting ability, I thought that he was given a role totally within his range - that of a clueless gunslinger who's caught up in a web of intrigue far greater than he can fathom.

Based on a story James Ellroy, who gave us L.A. Confidential and The Black Dahlia, we continue the tale about corrupt cop culture, and with director David Ayer at the helm, who delivered Harsh Times and wrote Training Day, there's some amount of credibility and expectation with these two powerhouses collaborating, and from my previous enjoyment of their earlier movies, thankfully, Street Kings delivered spot on, with hard hitting, uncompromising action coupled with violence without remorse, and a deep undercurrent brewing on the political angle within the police department as well.

We get introduced to Reeves' Detective Tom Ludlow of the LAPD, who in the first 10 minutes, we witness a classic Dirty Harry styled cop who lets his guns do the talking, and employs questionable tactics in getting the job done. And he gets off the hook easy because of his sterling reputation, and no doubt being given special treatment and protection from his direct boss Captain Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker). Naturally it gets slowly revealed that the entire police team has plenty of skeletons in the closet, and while Wander may be the patriarch of the force, politicking his way to more power, he has his enforcer, Ludlow, at his side to straighten things up.

And with corrupt cops come the probe by Internal Affairs, and here's where things start to get interesting, with potential moles, and doubtful loyalties being thrown around, and in the midst of it all is severe corruption, that it's nearly impossible to try and trust anyone around, more so when Chris Evan's Detective Paul Diskant gets thrown into the fray to investigate a case against Ludlow. For those who enjoy cop dramas, you'll be in for a real treat with the twists and turns, betrayals and double crossings, and when it comes down to the crunch, out comes the guns.

But more importantly, it allows us to question just how much are we willing to sacrifice our moral ground, especially when revealing the truth will put us in bad light, or get us into trouble, and we're talking about trouble with a capital T, where innate self-preservation instincts will take over if we do not consciously make a conscientious decision to come clean. We can cover up, get people to cover up, or better yet, have someone in power to cover it up for you, but that only means you get sucked into a system, and it will continue to breed within you, for the worse.

Street Kings is excellent stuff that blew me away (caution: Fan Boy mode is on), and the ending sure is one of a kind, with the usual soliloquy, but one that really made you think on both sides of the equation - what one would do and say in order to save oneself, and how one can lie straight into the eye of another. It's classic black eat black, showing how deep the rot has permeated, and the ending just demonstrates that sometimes unorthodox methods work, but with a caution that there are always more powerful people out there who play others like pawns on a chessboard. Besides, it was nice to see Forest Whitaker getting into the rough and tumble of things after a rather docile role in bVantage Point.

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