Street Kings – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

When one is successful in any profession – in terms of being at the top – you earn what some have called “walk away money.” That is you have enough stored in the bank that you can walk away at any point and have a comfortable lifestyle for many years. With the success of The Matrix and its sequels, Keanu Reeves used some savvy to gain a considerable fortune from the sequels to leverage himself to a point where he could walk away at any point from being a famous actor.

Arguably his career has never been better since that point, as the quality of films he’s taken on has increased due to his ability to choose the projects he takes. While his career is littered with a lot of success, from Point Break and Speed to The Matrix trilogy, there are plenty of stinkers that litter the highway of the Keanu Reeves’ cinematic resume. It’s interesting to see what he’s done in the time since he earned his walk away money from The Matrix sequels, in which he’s rumored to have walked away with an obscene amount of cash. Street Kings represents yet another terrific film he’s done since he started being pickier with his script selection.

Directed by David Ayer, who wrote Training Day, Street Kings follows LAPD officer Tom Ludlow (Reeves) in an exploration of his career. Ludlow hasn’t been able to cope effectively with the death of his wife, taking insane risks on the job and being rewarded for it. Much like Alonzo in Training Day, Ludlow is the personification of the “wolf among the sheep” motif that Ayer developed for Denzel Washington and seems to be his burgeoning metaphor for the life of a police officer. When Ludlow is implicated in the death of a fellow officer, he has to go against the sort of police culture he’s been a part of for many years. Juxtaposed against this story is his boss (Forest Whitaker), who has been his mentor since he was a rookie, as well as an Internal Affairs captain (Hugh Laurie) who wants Ludlow to become a snitch on his unit. Spiraling out of control with the death of his former partner, it’s up to Ludlow to find himself out between a rock and a hard place.

It’s an interesting concept and Ayer is pretty familiar with the territory of the crime film, but Ayer finds plenty of material to mine to keep it interesting. His motif of the “wolf among sheep” as protector, as opposed to poacher, is something he explored in Training Day and it’s interesting to see how he explores it here. Ludlow isn’t a dirty cop, but he isn’t a good one by definition either. He doesn’t take money, but he pushes the boundaries of acceptable behavior for his profession. As the film moves forward, we see Tom go from being a police officer who pushes the rules to one evaluating the consequences of a career filled with pushing the envelope.

For Ayer, it is a matter of story as opposed to acting. He has a top notch cast, which helps, but the star is the film’s script. This is a tight story that mirrors a lot of what he did with Training Day; Street Kings is derivative of that film enough to be noticeable but not annoying. He gets good but not great performances from his primary cast, including Reeves. Reeves may never be a world class actor, but given the right role and the right director he shines. His charisma is good enough to carry the film, but he obviously worked extremely hard on his part and the film. It shows in how he does little things, like handle a weapon and follow police procedures, and it gives the film the sort of credibility it needs to be a crime film in the modern era.

The downside is that Ayer cribs a lot from his prior crime flicks, including Dark Blue, and it takes away from this film somewhat. Sometimes Ayer dictates his next step from his prior films with similar moments, taking away a bit from where he wants to take this flick. He’s trying to continue to establish this as another in what’s a trilogy of films involving hard-nosed cops who push the line that he started in Dark Blue, but he telegraphs a lot of what he’s going to do.

Street Kings is closer in spirit to Miami Vice because of its low profile as well as its abject quality.

Lately Fox has been packing in great audio/visual presentations onto their new releases of DVDs and the transfer for Street Kings shows off it’s a/v muscle if you have a system that can push the format to its limit. Presented in a Dolby Digital surround with a Widescreen format, it’s a marvel as it looks and sounds wonderfully.

Street Rules: Rolling with David Ayer and Jaime FitzSimons is a piece with Ayer and the technical adviser for the film as they go through some of the rougher neighborhoods of L.A. that they used for the film. It’s interesting to hear the two discuss what parts of the city used to be good, which ones turned bad, and all other sorts of tidbits only two guys who’ve lived in the city for a long time to know. As a piece it’s fascinating to be a fly on the wall for these two, especially FitzSimons discussing his memories of L.A.

L.A Bete Noir: Writing Street Kings focuses on the film’s story, about a man on a journey, but doesn’t last very long.

Street Cred talks about how they brought on board various rappers and others with credibility from the streets on to the film. Nothing of note really is said.

There are four Vignettes that run a total of less than 10 minutes running time. Nothing of note is said. Behind The Scenes is similar, with four segments running 10 minutes and not amounting to much in terms of information.

Fox’s signature Inside Look series has a quick piece on the film as well.

Deleted Scenes come with a commentary by Ayer that is optional. There are some Alternate Takes of certain scenes as well. There isn’t anything to be added with the new scenes.

Commentary by Ayer

The film’s Theatrical Trailer is included.


The first ten years since the turn of the century has featured some of the best crime films ever made. Even films that don’t come close to the standard set by The Departed are still very good, and you can add Street Kings to that list.

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Fox Searchlight presents Street Kings. Directed by David Ayer. Starring Forrest Whitaker, Keanu Reeves, Jay Mohr, Chris Evans. Written by James Ellroy, Kurt Wimmer and Jamie Moss. Running time: 109 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: August 19, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.