Street Kings opens with a bang, or several bangs, rather, most of them emanating from the giant gun of Detective Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves). He’s infiltrated the squalid lair of a sleazy Korean gang who’ve kidnapped and pimped out two little girls, and he takes down the scumbags one by one with samurai-like efficiency.
When Ludlow’s boss, Captain Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker), shows up on the scene to survey the carnage, he declares his top cop’s handiwork “beautiful”. He’s not just Ludlow’s enabler, he’s his number-one fan.
The unhealthy working relationship between Ludlow and Wander is at the heart of Street Kings, a taught, intense police drama directed by David Ayer, best known as the writer of Training Day, another gritty story about LA’s wayward boys in blue.
As the plot kicks in, we learn that Ludlow is under investigation for misconduct, and that his former partner, Detective Washington (Terry Crews), is a key witness. When Washington is murdered just as Ludlow is about to break his jaw for the betrayal, Ludlow becomes a suspect until Wander steps in to cover his tracks.
Trouble is, Ludlow doesn’t want to let sleeping police dogs lie. He sets out to find Washington’s true killers so he can settle the score, much to the vexation of Wander, who just might have something to hide.
To say that Keanu Reeves is well suited to playing a cop is like saying that Dora the Explorer is well suited to exploring. He’s appeared in two of the greatest cop movies of all time, Point Break and Speed, and even his character in The Matrix was arguably cop-like.
The thing about Keanu is that he effortlessly embodies the qualities we’d like to see in our policemen: strength and courage that’s tempered by courtesy and good judgment. He’s an alpha-male, but also a genuinely good guy, truly, a rare combination.
It must be said that Keanu is starting to look a tad weather-beaten, but perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. In the past, his extreme handsomeness has kept certain segments of the movie-going public from taking him seriously, so now that he’s not quite so pretty, perhaps his acting talent will be duly recognised. Anyone who can stand toe-to-toe with Forest Whitaker has got something more than just chops. At the press screening for Street Kings, there were moments when I had to hold myself back from cheering on Detective Ludlow, it just doesn’t look cool to let yourself go like that in front of fellow scribes. Keanu kicks butt!
Keanu Reeves turns in yet another intense performance in this gritty cop drama from David Ayer. 4/5