Tom Ludlow

Street Kings (2008)

We're the police. We can do whatever the hell we want.

Occupation:Police detective
Distinguishing Feature:An unforgivably horrible taste in shirts, not pictured here to save your eyes
What He Taught Us:Never underestimate the persuasive properties of a phonebook.

Keanu Reeves

He's got a lot of things. He's got grief. He's got a question of why. He has the pressures of his job. I think he's in conflict with what he's good at in his work and he doesn't know how to be good at that in life.

I think he knows that about himself but he's in a dilemma and the consequences of the job he's deciding to do to be the point of the spear has some living consequences on him because he's all soft and vulnerable on the inside but he's got to be something else on the outside.

I wanted him to look like a guy who drinks but who obviously trains for his job. I wanted him to be this mixture of broken but ready, to look like a guy who you wouldn't want to mess with in a weird way. He's got some miles on him, but he also looks capable. He's the first guy in the door, he's described as the tip of the spear, so you know, he's living in a world of violence and yet to me, he's got a vulnerability to him. You know, he's kinda hard on the outside but a pretty sensitive guy on the inside, so I liked him and that interplay, you know?

He was certainly more complicated than a straight hero. He's a character of contradictions. He's a very ethical guy, he's described as being a good cop, but he does do unethical - maybe unethical - things. The fantastic Naomie Harris says of my character - she's the widow of my ex-partner and I'm trying to find the killers of my ex-partner - and she's like: 'When are your eyes going to open?' so for me, I think Ludlow at the end of the film kinda just has an awareness of where he is in his life.

He's been used as a pawn, his own personal agendas have been co-opted by other people's agendas. And I think, not only as a cop movie and a cop story, I think that idea can be translated to another situation. You think you know what you're doing, you think you're in control, and you're not. He's very awkward and then when he's looking at the videotape and going on the hunt, he's just so alive, so to get to that place, was definitely getting in touch with your inner Ludlow.

I think that I wanted to have him, hopefully, have some things that we could recognize, not necessarily in ourselves, but in the world. It wasn't specific like that, like, 'What can we do to make him more likable?' But hopefully he's sympathetic, or maybe there's something in his vulnerability that makes him kind of understandable in some sense.

There's a scene that we're all in where we're at Forest's house for a kind of get-together, and Tom Ludlow looks like he doesn't know how to talk to people. He doesn't know how to be. These guys all have a connection and an ease about them. But then when you look at Ludlow when he's in his job fighting, killing and punching, he's most alive and comfortable.

It's not fun. Part of the film is like, when is violence necessary and when isn't it? Like Naomie Harris's character says: 'Blood doesn't wash away blood' and Tom Ludlow says: 'I don't care'.

[But] when she ends up in a situation of peril and she sees Tom Ludlow coming onto the scene she almost gets a smile on her face because she knows she's gonna be OK. He'll fucking take care of business... So you need it but Ludlow sometimes crosses the line. Because what is he doing? Is he meting out justice to serve and protect, or is he a murderer? Is he a killer?

He's a good guy. You just don't want to get on his wrong side.


The world is a dangerous place, that is why Tom chooses a career as a policeman. He has a strong sense of justice and is instinctively protective of the vulnerable. He knows how criminals think and act; and he is also 'eloquent' in their language too. For him, being bad to bad people equals to being good to good people. Violence for Tom is a mere tool to silence the culprits, making this world a less troublesome place.

But he does not know that he is also in trouble and vulnerable, too. Sleepless nights, bottles of vodka, and uncontrolled aggression ... all telling how helpless the man can be. He cannot forgive himself of failing protecting his wife while spending his life protecting others. He knows the pain of not knowing, but he hates to know too. Ugly shirts he wears, Tom does not care. He has too much mess inside of him that the last thing he care is to impress strangers by his looks.