If you’re going to make a cop drama in this day with countless crime-based shows on TV, you need to go further than what’s being offered free. Street Kings does, even if it starts off flat. The twists, turns, and frustrations of a corrupt LAPD are felt along with its characters, and an excellent finale ties it together.
Street Kings' sole flaw is the opening 20 minutes. Keanu Reeves leads a solid cast in what initially feels like a disjointed, haphazard, internal police squabble. Corruption has begun to take its toll, and Reeves begins doing everything under the table. When a specific member of LAPD goes down, the film quickly picks up.
Even Reeves' performance makes a complete turn-around. After a rather wooden start, the emotional toll can be seen in his acting, making a believable character stuck in a bad spot with no way out. Many of the characters are stereotypical for a film of this nature, another reason why the opening fails to generate excitement. Their development is far too typical to remain interesting.
What turns Street Kings around is fine writing, an authentic feel, excellently handled action, and high tension levels. The story takes some significant turns that are hard to spot, leading to a classic, edge-of-your seat finale that makes a perfect cap to this tale. Hugh Laurie deserves special mention even if his role is small, pushing out an excellent performance that does play an important role in the proceedings.
Director David Ayer isn’t new to the genre, having written the superb Training Day, and directed another Los Angeles street drama, Harsh Times. The gritty, dirty look of Street Kings never feels overdone.
While his latest may not be as superbly done as Training Day, there’s a lot to recommend here. The intensity is high, and the drama is involving. Street Kings is undoubtedly a theatrical release-worthy cop drama.
Even with its harsh look, the film manages to deliver an excellent all-around Blu-ray effort. The transfer is sharp, delivering on detail and clarity. Black levels are handled well, with a small hint of black crush in the early going. Colors and flesh tones are perfect. A tiny amount of artifacting can be seen, and equally minuscule amount of edge enhancement can be picked up on, though enough to knock this transfer down a notch.
Gunfire is the sticking point of this DTS-HD Master track. It’s loud, loaded with bass, and comes from all directions. That said, there are times when it doesn’t feel aggressive enough, particularly the store shoot out. Non-action still offers some nice ambience and immersion, including helicopters and police sirens moving through the sound field.
Extras offer an extensive list of content, although little of it is actually meaty or worthwhile. A commentary from David Ayer starts things off, followed by 15 deleted scenes (and a few alternate takes) with an optional commentary, again from Ayer. Under Surveillance is a collection of 37 very brief featurettes that can either be played via picture-in-picture or viewed individually from the main menu. Most are too short to be of any real value.
Street Rules is one of the best features on the disc, as Ayer and his technical advisor (a retired LAPD detective) drive through some of the tougher neighborhoods in LA. It runs a little over 17 minutes. A collection of featurettes follows, many of which are purely throw away promotional pieces. In total, there’s a little over a half hour of rather worthless content used for selling the film to someone who already has the disc in hand.
Street Kings has been around for some time. The screenplay was written in the mid-'90s, and directors such as Spike Lee and Oliver Stone were attached along the way.