As the last scene of Street Kings, a new movie starring Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker and countless other famous actors, cut to black, a kid sitting a few rows behind the wife and I made the simple, yet eloquent statement that summed up the whole of the film: “Man, that was shitty as hell.”
The wife and I immediately started laughing. The kid said it all.
Street Kings is penned by James Ellroy who also wrote the brilliant L.A. Confidential and directed by David Ayer who wrote the good, but not as good as people think it is Training Day (the acting made that film). And Street Kings plays like an amalgam of these two pictures, only without any of the subtlety and nuance in story and acting that made those films what they are. Those films, but especially L.A. Confidential, deftly show the allure of power and how easy it is to fall into an existence based on corruption, greed and justification. Street Kings, on the other hand, tells you–repeatedly and with increasing volume–“This is a film about power and corruption and greed and justification! Can You See The Gray? Look, There Is More Gray! And There! DO YOU SEE? HE IS DRINKING HIS COPING MECHANISM AGAIN!! There are a lot of films where you don’t have to think much to get the point. This film must be what osmosis is like.
A couple of other points…The best dialogue in the film is the very first dialogue of the film. It is quick, clever and biting, and never threatens to show itself again the entire film. Maybe James Ellroy wrote the opening and some other scribe took over from there…The ‘twist ending’ is painfully obvious somewhere around the twenty-twenty-five minute mark, and all side twists are unnecessary, intermittently ridiculous, and do not alter the path of the film one bit…On the acting, the cast of this film includes Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie (House), Chris Evans (Fantastic Fours), Jay Mohr (from countless shitty things, as well as, one of the greatest failed sitcoms ever, Action), Amaury Nolasco (Prison Break), John Corbett (Northern Exposure), Cedric the Entertainer (The Kings of Comedy), Common (he can’t really act, but he is a great musician) and The Game (he also can’t really act, but has been known to blow up the charts), and almost every single one of these guys overacts their terrible dialogue, especially Forest Whitaker. Toward the end of the film he attempt to out Idi Amin himself. The one exception to this overacting–and I may be about to ruin myself as a reviewer–was Keanu Reeves. I am not the Keanu Reeves basher that many are (how can an actor be terrible, yet be in a number of good movies? It can’t always be “in spite of”), but I have no problem pointing out when he is terrible. I have read other reviews of this film since seeing it, and some of them have said the things reviewers always say about him–he is wooden, emotionless, etc–but he is not these things and shame on them for lumping him in with the rest of this mess. His performance is solid and carries far more depth than any of the other characters.
I am left to imagine what reviewers and the kid sitting behind the wife and I might have said if the plot and the dialogue had not been so absurdly awful.