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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Street Kings

Aggression Claimed Its Culture

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James Ellroy's story, Street Kings is a work of sober originality, yet it shares certain similarities with other efforts that do tell tales about a world without heroes. The most notable among these parallels are the mere reasons that do deny, even nullify the legitimity of the "common hero".

On the image Street Kings or Yet Another Similar, Though Not As Good of a Movie as This One Is delivers, there are no proper challenges, no proper prizes and no proper admirers for a hero, thereby this senselessly, hopelessly furious, rampantly aggressive world easily incapacitates the hero archetype by taking away or corrupting the elements the hero must relate to.

It is not the danger that defines the hero. It is the need that defines one. Street Kings gives you a supersolid Los Angeles cop thrill in which a hero is not the benevolent defender and companion of the community - instead, he is an obstacle, as he has rigorous devotions to elementary values and rules, and even has the charisma and skills to defend those - yet now he operates in a world which ended up being furiously governed by an infinite number of rules. A system in which the Bigger Caliber, the Better Lier, the Swifter Betrayer emerges triumphant. For the day, at least. As Street Kings informs you along the way: "Today's Suspect Is Next Week's Victim".

Best thing about Street Kings is that story inventor James Ellroy knew exactly what he was going for and managed to form the narrative accordingly. The film is very humane, yet this does not necessarily imply that it would give you fruity directions and enlightening reflections on our tender, kind, loving nature. Quite the contrary: it's the Welcome To The Jungle theme this time around, the first person to grab it, is the person to keep it. In such a world, it is suggested and even revealed to be unavoidable that crime and crime pursuit do end up in a symbiotic relationship. Dependency is such that neither could exist without the other. Mild exaggeration here though, as surely, crime easily could emerge as a dominant lifestyle in the LA area, which, if I am not mistaken, it did for real, anyway. Yet the LAPD depicted in Street Kings is not just relentless pursuer of crime - as you will see, crime is benefactor of the legal armed forces, instead.

Street Kings is an aggressive movie with an aggressive pace, which is though easily followable via a nice narrative layout that exhibits sane rhythm, strong plot and solid dialog. The buildup follows veteran LAPD Detective Tom Ludlow during one of the most eventful weeks of his career as a Police Officer. I do think that Keanu Reeves gives us a superb performance this time around, let us notice that stress suits this guy wonderfully, simply because he has an incredible tolerance factor for it, or at least this is what the Big Screen suggests. Keanu simply cannot be broken by stress as he have lost his stress threshold already, thus, he simply accomplishes the current mission and takes a Vodka to it. Ah, you say THAT'S the very trick right there? Either way, Reeves has the natural charisma, composure and personality to render such a character via an utterly solid, believable fashion. It is very easy to relate to Tom Ludlow as you can see that he is under a blatant amount of stress all the time, yet he tolerates and walks through-and with it relentlessly, as being crushed of it would not be an option, at all. And, for Ludlow and Keanu: it is NOT, indeed. That's why he is a superb choice to this role.

- You need to go SLOWER, dude!
- I AM going slower.

Supportive roles are respective musts to mention, as well. Forest "NO, his eyes are NOT different, OK??" Whitaker is always a safe, suitable choice if to render characters of sane authority, this is no exception: he performs greatly as Unit Commander and maybe, JUST maybe he will have cards up his sleeve you did not even dare to think about. But, maybe he won't. Nice is the wonderful world of movie reviewing. Chris Evans is very good, also: as a late sidekick to Ludlow, the kid exhibits solid dignity and proper, juvenile strength to be worthy companion of the hardened Veteran along a way that might lead them to parts both would prefer if never explored. There are two co-cops yet, the dude from Prison Break who thinks he is at least twice as good as he is, but he is not, I can not remember his name, but he either smiles ineptly all the time, or gives you the Oh My God It's Steven Seagal And He Is Attacking Me Ass! face. That pretty much wraps his acting qualities up, as of today. Bah, I look it up! So, his name is Amaury Nolasco. Geez, wish I would not looked THIS one up. The other co-cop of the Unit, Jay Mohr renders a nice, supportive background performance and reigns as source of some quite proper, well placed jokes that do take place between Ludlow and him and actually make you laugh out loud. To tell you the truth, there is a third co-cop, but his role was so transparent, that maybe he is not present in the movie's reality, I just imagined.

The synopsis itself concerns an intuitive setup to starts the narrative off: Ludlow is the Soul of a hardened LAPD Unit, as his Boss puts it: "You are the TIP of the SPEAR, son!" The accomplished veteran has a recently spawned notoriety though which implies him to be a rather trigger-happy fellow who prefers to conduct interviews if and when the suspect wears a black nylon sack during transportation. This assumption is a source of conflict between Ludlow and his former partner, Washington. As it turns out shortly, Washington not only keeps his eyes on Ludlow, he even hooked up with Internal Affairs AND reported Ludlow as evidently dirty. At least, this is what Ludlow is told by the fellow Officers. To put the synopsis swift and simple: Ludlow prefers to knock Washington out the old fashioned way for this betrayal, yet, as he approaches the store his former partner in, there are two dudes in bandana masks that do just the exact same thing. Ludlow runs in to warn Washington about the imminent robbery, yet surely, the former partner considers this exhibited intensity a hit, itself - let us wrap the synopsis up by assuring you that Washington will not be too talkative after the store closes its doors for the night, and Ludlow will have to explore very circumstantial territories via very circumstantial ways to gain knowledge about the identities of the killers, not to mention what, and why exactly have happened in the store.

SPOILER warning that might came late, sorry - STARTS. By this synopsis, I think I gave you quite proper and almost way too precise pointers, especially by suggesting that the hit in the store could have been more than an everyday average normal store murder. It is sad to live in a world like this, yes? Surely, it IS sad, but not as sad as if YOU would commit the murder the very next day. So, come instead tomorrow, as well. SPOILER warning that might came late, sorry - ENDS.

A primal attractive power of the narrative to fuel Street Kings is the trait that characterizes the store hit: though it might sound quite trite, yet you can not be exactly sure of anything. I mean: in this here movie. And, in this here Universe. But the latter is an entirely different discussion. The film gives you six, maybe seven narrative chunks, each of the first four-five relating closely to the investigation, while the final chunks do deliver a truly satisfying conclusion period. Satisfying in the sense that it has an utterly bitter, yet so sorrowfully epic quality to it.

If you did not yet see the movie, please skip this section for now, see the movie, THEN come back. If you saw the movie already, then nice method wasting your lifetime reading the previous sentence, please read on. Notice the final setup of Street Kings. Hugh Laurie - yes, Dr. House is playing in this output, minus his highly humorous, sarcastic comments - expresses his gratitude to the hero, he walks away, case closed, the hero remains. The hero, though he remains, recognizes how this world is not compatible with the cautious, yet rigorous standards he believed in and fought to defend. Keanu looks down on the city, but he can not be sure if the city looks back on him and accepts him, anymore. It seems that he has no place in it, as he remained true to those governing standards, yet all that eventually revealed how utterly corrupted the idea he fought for was. Not because the idea itself is wrong: it is because the city does not tolerate the idea itself anymore, similarly as she does not tolerate the hero. Stopped tolerating them since decades, maybe. Might that be so that Ludlow fought against this very recognition, the one recognition he no longer can hide from? Either way, now it is evident what the City Wants and how it Prefers Things. The Culture of Aggression is what She Claims, and it is also what She Gets and what She Establishes.

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