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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Drama > Crime > Street Kings (2008/20th Century Fox Blu-ray)

Street Kings (2008/20th Century Fox Blu-ray)


Picture: A-     Sound: B+     Extras: B+     Film: B-



Riding off the wave of Martin Scorsese’s brilliant adaptation of Internal Affairs, which was re-titled The Departed, comes 2008’s Street Kings starring Forrest Whitaker and Keanu Reeves.  This film attempts many of the same things as it shows us the ongoing battle between police squads, internal affairs, and criminals.  One will quickly realize thought the true superiority that a director like Scorsese has at translating this to the screen with a script that continues to work hard and pays off big.  Unlike Street Kings, which starts off strong, but fails to go the distance as it becomes too convoluted, contrived, and trivial to make it stand out among the better films of its kind.  Even 2002’s highly under-seen and still under-appreciated Dark Blue (starring Kurt Russell) managed to show just how blurred these lines can be and yet remained neutral as well.  There of course have been other films to hint at police corruption as well, even Ridley Scott’s 1989 thriller Black Rain (already reviews twice on this site) managed to do so, but again had a stronger focus in mind than director David Ayers did here. 


That doesn’t mean that Street Kings is a total failure, in fact much of the films highlights are surprises, like Keanu Reeves, who dials in one of his more impressive performances and perhaps one of his best to date.  This comes as a surprise for those that simply see him as a stand-in actor.  Forrest Whitaker is equally impressive, but this is not surprising for those who are familiar with his range, if you are not as familiar than quickly snatch up The Last King of Scotland and Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai to get a strong dosage of his abilities. 


We start the film off with Reeves as a hard-working LAPD detective/killing machine whose antics are not overlooked as it seems he brings controversy to the squad by his ‘shoot first then ask questions’ policy.  He is protected by his Captain (Whitaker) who is proud of his ‘boy’ and knows that he can get the job done, even when it’s messy.  What follows though is a long run of incidents that eventually puts the internal affairs office hot on the tail of this particular police unit and then a series of killings that begin to raise significant questions.  Reeves is trying to do his job, despite how unclear it seems at times, while everyone else is out for themselves and at the same time the lines of who is good and who is bad becomes highly irrelevant.  There are other strong performances throughout as well, but the script runs out of steam just before it can truly make the payoff and sadly puts a strong contender of a film into the enormous vacuum of long-forgotten films.  The studio on the other hand is hoping that this Blu-ray can reverse that fact. 


The film is presented in a strongly detailed and stylized 1080p 2.40 X 1 digital High Definition transfer that certainly looks sharp and presents the film well.  There are some spectacular scenes of L.A. at night that look solid with super deep blacks and yet retain superb color definition throughout.  There are only a handful of moments where the image looks a bit soft and even slightly less sharp. In some respects it looks just a degree below reference quality in the majority of scenes, even retaining much of the gritty look that the film intentionally went for, although most will liken the film to that of 2001’s Training Day (actually better on HD-DVD than Blu-ray, in separate reviews elsewhere on this site).  Both that film and this one missed the boat in some of the same aspects, particularly in how we do not really have a likable character or trustworthy character throughout most of the film, making it hard to really root for any particular agenda. 


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio Lossless) 5.1 mix is intelligent, but unfortunately suffers from time to time with an obnoxious distortion sound in the upper frequencies, which could be a problem with this particular Blu-ray because it was not as noticeable on the digital copy, but that is a different audio format altogether, so it’s hard to say where the real issue is.  Aside from that, there are some great moments with action-intense scenes and the realism of the HD mix makes for an altogether better experience. 


There are plenty of extras included as well including a commentary track, making-of, documentaries, behind-the-scenes, deleted scenes, alternative takes, a writing featurette, and many other little tidbits that help bring into perspective the challenges of making this film as well as the process for making it that will not only appeal to fans, but also those with limited interest.  Recommended, but nothing that hasn’t already been done before, or done better.



-   Nate Goss


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