David Ayer has made some pretty sweet flicks in my opinion, his crowning achievement being Fury. He has a real niche talent for gritty real-world crime films with shady cops. The best of these is our subject today, the 2008 effort Street Kings, starring Keanu Reeves.
Reeves plays Tom Ludlow, a shady slob and hero cop who is ultra-competent at killing street mooks in an elite LA police unit. This is more or less a fictional version of the real-world Special Investigation Section.
The story starts with Tom making a fake machine gun sale to a gang of Koreans and following them back to their home. He busts in and wastes them without even attempting to arrest them. He finds two kidnapped girls that were being used to make child porn films, the reason for his raid. This sets up the premise that Tom and his unit don’t do things by the book and are very careful about how they set up scenarios so they can appear to legally kill the worst criminals in the city.
Pretty fast we find out Tom’s old partner had some problems with the unit’s methods and had left, ostensibly to rat them out to internal affairs. Tom goes to confront him about this seeming act of betrayal and arrives just in time to see two gang bangers make him into a human colander. During this little firefight, Tom accidentally puts a round into his former partner’s back. All caught on security cam footage.
This begins a cover-up and an attempt by Tom to find the killers. The story becomes detective work as Tom and another younger detective try to catch the killers while struggling against Tom’s unit trying to cover it to protect him from any appearance of being involved in the hit on his ex-partner.
Attention To Detail
In the end, Tom does find the killers and the gunplay starts. Turns out everyone in the film is a corrupt dirtbag and we get one of the most cynical cop thrillers ever put to film with a great ending. There is a lot of excellent gunplay, with Keanu’s gun handling as realistic as usual. The weapons are all correct for 2008-era LA special police units, which is impressive. This director has repeatedly demonstrated attention to detail in firearms technicalities even if he did make one of the most idiotic comic book films ever made.
I love Street Kings. It’s a sleeper for a lot of people and I have no idea why. I can say I watch it at least every month, My highest recommendation.