Whilst Keanu Reeves would not be my first choice to play a dirty cop it is very much Reeves' performance in cop thriller "Street Kings" which keeps you entertained. I say that because there have been a lot of cop thrillers over the years and in the end for all the elements which combine to make a reasonable storyline "Street Kings" ends up no different to many. From the minute that we witness Reeves' dirty cop finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time when a former colleague is murdered you can guess that nothing is as it seems and there is someone pulling strings behind the scenes.
Ever since his wife died, whilst cheating on him, Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves - The Lake House) is a cop who is prepared to die and it makes him dangerous, so dangerous that he is willing to put himself in the midst of danger and manufacture evidence to kill those who are no good. But after his latest exploits which sees him kill 4 Asian kidnappers his own brand of justice comes to the attention of Captain James Biggs (Hugh Laurie - Flight of the Phoenix) of the IA after his former partner Detective Terrence Washington (Terry Crews) started squealing on corrupt officers. And when Tom happens to be in the same place as Washington when he is gunned down suspicions increase. With his own Captain Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker - Vantage Point) wanting Tom to ignore Washington's murder Tom finds himself teaming up with young Detective Paul Diskant (Chris Evans) to unravel the truth as to who killed Washington and why.
In a way you can watch "Street Kings" and spot how other movies have influenced it such as the opening which establishes that Tom Ludlow is a man who doesn't fear death ever since his wife died. We may not have Reeves doing a Gibson in "Lethal Weapon" and putting a gun in his mouth but we watch him go single handed into dangerous situations where there is a good chance he could die. At the same time we also quickly learn that he is a dirty cop who would give Dirty Harry a run for his money as he insults people, manufactures evidence and is smart enough to dish out beating using a heavy phone book to disguise any evidence that he gave the beating.
It makes for an interesting if a bit of an unoriginal character and unfortunately whilst what follows is entertaining and for the most well put together it is just as unoriginal. From the minute that Tom ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time as Washington gets mowed down by hitmen you can guess he is being set up. So we follow as he goes against orders and tries to find out who killed Washington and why and what he finds makes him doubt those who had been his colleagues. The result of which is for the most not a surprise although sadly the ending is a big mistake delivering a couple of scenes which are so out of place as Tom gets a confession from the person manipulating things.
But whilst it doesn't take a genius to work out the outcome of "Street Kings" it is nicely put together with a good mixture of drama and action with the action not holding back for being grisly. And at the centre of all this is Keanu Reeves who is solid as Tom Ludlow, never making him gritty like Dirty Harry or crazy like Riggs but a man who you can sense is troubled, not only by the death of his wife but also in the way Captain Jack Wander and his team operate. Talking of which Reeves is most certainly aided by a good supporting cast which includes Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie, Jay Mohr and Chris Evans as well as a not instantly recognizable John Corbett.
What this all boils down to is that "Street Kings" is an entertaining cop thriller which does a good job of mixing action and drama. But beyond the visual entertainment it is just a cop thriller and one which if you are familiar with the genre will be easy to work out and is spoilt by an out of place ending.