Television is very good at crime drama, increasingly so over the last ten years. This presents film with a problem, film should (and often is) be superior to television. It should be the at the top of storytelling on a screen. Attracting the best writers, actors and biggest budgets. This is no longer the case with crime drama, television offers a broader canvas and comparable budgets to attract the necessary heavyweights, every series now has a bankable star and a “name” writer. Film should, accordingly up it’s game to stay ahead of it’s little brother. Onto Street Kings then.
Keanu Reeves plays an angst ridden, hero cop with anger issues and a vodka problem as Keanu Reeves. It feels churlish to complain about Reeves’ acting after we’ve collectively let him get away with playing himself made of wood so well for so long. Fortunately as long as he keeps picking genre characters this cliched it really doesn’t matter. Bruce Forsyth could play “crooked cop 101” and this film would still play.
Ever since Training Day Hollywood has tossed three or four of these L.A. based, cop dramas a year in the hope of catching that train again. Well, Training Day deserved it’s Oscar, Washington’s was the standout performance that year, lifting a piss weak film into the stratosphere. Without Washington’s electricity the film’s that followed have been well, piss weak.
Has Street Kings got anything to give it a shot in the arm. It has ethnic stereotypes, rap music, drug deals, liquor store robberies, a million crooked cops and middle aged men talking in movie speak. So far so blah.
However it does have a screenplay by James Ellroy, a man who knows a thing or two about the police department in Los Angeles. He wrote the treatment and the story for a drama taking place in his regular stomping ground of the thirties. Who knows what that film would have looked like because someone decided to update it to the present. It doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to see that in translation this film may have lost it’s zip and heart becoming the stilted genre piece we have been presented with. Every line is familiar, every scenario a remake of one we’ve seen many times. A chance missed perhaps.