Keanu Reeves stars as a veteran Los Angeles police officer battling crime in the city and corruption on the force in a gritty and violent new drama based on a novel by James Ellroy. Alan Silverman has a look at Street Kings.
Tom Ludlow is a streetwise cop who knows he has to be as tough as the criminals he is up against.
A member of an elite detective squad and a favorite of the captain in command, Ludlow appears headed for the top; but the pressures of the job and the pain of personal tragedy (the death of his wife) start him drinking heavily. When another detective who may be caught up in a police corruption scandal is murdered, Ludlow becomes a suspect.
Ludlow finds the only way he can clear himself is to uncover the corruption; but that means abandoning the friendships and loyalties he has built up over years on the force.
Keanu Reeves stars as Ludlow.
"I felt he was a soldier and sometimes a soldier is told to do something and he goes and he does it; but he is not a part of why he is there or how he got there. He just knows what he has to do ...and Ludlow is used," Reeves says.
"The character I'm playing is a bit of a lone wolf and there is a certain kind of jealousy from the other men in the squad, but he is also kind of special to their captain - Forest Whitaker's character," he explains. "So you kind of have this tension which gets played out through the film."
Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker plays the corrupt squad captain who seems concerned more about his own power and career than he does about getting criminals off the street.
"I think this guy cares about family and the guys are his family," Whitaker says. "That's his world and he is trying to protect them. He thinks that he is fighting against corruption. Most of the people he is getting money from are doing bad things and in the end he is trying to make sure that everybody is taken care of in his world. Trust was a big deal for him. He had a real strong code of ethics even though, in the end, his code of ethics doesn't morally fit with the way society sees things. That's where he was coming from."
Director David Ayer is no stranger to the police movie genre; he wrote the screenplay for Training Day, another gritty drama which earned its star, Denzel Washington, an Academy Award. Ayer says he was determined to keep Street Kings faithful to author James Ellroy's well-known insight into the police officer's world ...even though it may show some cops as less than honorable.
"I have a lot of friends in law enforcement and friends who are on the LAPD and they really respond to things like the vehicles and tactics and uniforms and those sort of things being portrayed correctly," Ayer says. "Also a lot of their language is very specific and we went to great pains to educate the actors on that culture and that world. At the end of the day, everybody appreciates a good detective yarn. Everybody appreciates a good police mystery. Hollywood has been making cop movies since there was a Hollywood, so it's a pretty accepted genre and, yes, you could make a movie about guys who absolutely do the right thing and follow all the regulations and proceedings, but it is not as exciting.
Star Keanu Reeves says the genre makes for good drama.
"It involves the best and the worst of us: the criminal, the angel, light and dark, discovery of self, acting out ...all of these fundamental aspects of drama," Reeves says. "I think that the crime genre ...the cop story ...is a great tablet for that. It is what we want in drama: stories."
Street Kings features Hugh Laurie as the Internal Affairs investigator trying to convince Ludlow to fight against the corruption. The cast also includes Jay Mohr, John Corbett, Cedric the Entertainer and rappers Common and The Game. The film was shot on location in Los Angeles.