David Ayer’s (Harsh Times, Training Day) new film Street Kings starring Keanu Reeves opened about a month ago and is pretty much gone from the cineplexes.
Why? Because it wasn’t a great film, but it wasn’t a bad film. It wasn’t a film that shouted for me to write about it after I had seen it, just to get around to it when I had the time. So here I am. I’m sure you can feel the enthusiasm.
Certainly it was a mediocre film, but not because of Keanu Reeves. People like to throttle him with less than flattering descriptions…”wooden” is one that comes to mind. I don’t think Keanu is wooden. And I don’t think he was the worst thing in this film.
On the contrary the dialogue was actually pretty wooden. As I was listening to the banter spewed forth by the many characters I kept asking myself, “Isn’t this based on a James Elroy novel?” So where was all that juicy dialogue? The rat-tat-tat back and forth was pretty much flat. Only a few lines here and there felt anything at all like his normal characters’ repartee.
Reeves plays what is essentially a bullet. His incredibly pasty face and dead stare shows a man that has been doing what he’s been doing for so long it doesn’t bother him – any and all emotional connection has been cut. The character never changes – just refocuses the energy of a guy who’s good at killing onto other baddies that deserve it just as much. And although he does good things, he is also essentially a “bad cop”. He’s the muscle for his higher ups. He does the dirty work and they cover for him. Keanu is perfect for this role. And the few times he gets angry, you believe him.
However, Forrest Whitaker, playing Keanu’s captain, was not believable. Forrest hems and haws his way through this gritty film like he’s in a sketch on the Muppet Show. At first he sounds like Denzel, then he has a Mexican accent, then a Brooklyn accent, then…Then he’s blubbering and shouting. Oh, man, I wish he would stop “acting”! I haven’t always disliked Forrest. Alas, I’m one of the few that didn’t like his Idi Amin. It was such a calculated exercise that I knew when he was going to be angry or happy or helpful…it was completely telegraphed. What made that performance so powerful (when it was) was the camera work! And then his gentle giant character in Vantage Point was down right annoying. Here’s hoping any one of his next 6 movies is worth seeing. (I did miss The Great Debaters – looking forward to it.)
The one actor here that really seems to have a handle on what he’s doing is Chris Evans (The Human Torch, Cellular). He’s an actor with ample amounts of charisma and hopefully skill. I imagine we’ll find out in the years to come.
Finally, although the film itself falls short. Ayer gives me more reasons to dislike LA cops (he was one himself) and makes the LA hood look frightening enough for me to continue to stay a safe distance away from certain areas.