SYNOPSIS: Ray Liotta ("Goodfellas") delivers an intense performance in this explosive follow-up to the gritty urban crime thriller "Street Kings." Liotta plays Detroit detective Marty Kingston, the leader of an undercover narcotics team whose members are being systematically murdered one by one. To solve the brutal killings, Kingston joins forces with a young homicide detective. But neither of them is prepared for the shocking corruption their investigation will uncover--stunning secrets that will set both men on a violent collision course with betrayal and vengeance.
Cop thrillers are a dime-and-dozen- probably because it doesn’t cost too much to make one, and the fact that we can’t help but be intrigued by our men-in-blue. The latter is probably also the reason why most cop thrillers inevitably revolve around the theme of corruption, since the very nature of dirty cops goes against our very intuition of the kind of people we want enforcing law and order on our streets.
David Ayer’s ‘Street Kings’ was no different- it packed the grittiness that has become a prerequisite for the modern-day cop thriller, and it had a compelling plot courtesy of star writers James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential) and Kurt Wimmer (Law Abiding Citizen, Salt). This direct-to-video in-name only sequel however tries very hard to be gritty, but the lack of a gripping plot- written by newbies Ed Gonzalez and Jeremy Haft- means that it comes apart pretty quickly.
Once again, this sequel pairs a clean-cut rookie (Keanu Reeves in the former; Shawn Hatosy in this movie) with a veteran cop (Forest Whitaker in the former; Ray Liotta in this movie), with the veteran teaching the rookie the ways by which cops on the beat go about their business- even if it means taking a little on the side, or turning a blind eye. Here, Hatosy’s rookie is a certain Dan Sullivan who is assigned to work with Liotta’s Marty Kingston after a Narcotics cop is gunned down in cold blood.
The case intensifies after two other cops, both Narcotics officers and former partners of Kingston, also turn up dead. If you’re guessing if the killer is a cop or a thug, don’t bother- Gonzalez and Haft seem to have so little confidence in their story that they reveal who the killer is just half an hour into the movie. Of course, it really isn’t much of a surprise too- but the revelation still deflates much of the suspense that should accompany a movie like this.
Indeed, once we know the killer’s identity, it’s only a matter of time before Sullivan puts the pieces together and tracks him down. Director Chris Fisher tries to make this about the dilemma Sullivan faces taking down one of his own, but the attempt at injecting complexity into the mostly perfunctory proceedings is hardly engaging enough. And since the characters aren’t fleshed out properly, even the ending- which retains the original’s irony- comes across limp and uninspired.
The performances here are mostly just mediocre- Liotta has been in so many such genre stuff that he seems content to just sleepwalk through the role; while Hatosy is passable as the rookie forced to learn the ropes the tough way. And besides them, the rest of the supporting cast including Clifton Powell and Kevin Chapman as Kingston’s former partners are mostly wasted.
While ‘Street Kings’ was a sufficiently gripping cop thriller, this sequel is no more than a run-of-the-mill addition to the genre that will quickly be forgotten- after all, you will probably get the same and more in an episode of ‘Law and Order’ or ‘The Shield’ on TV. Even with lowered expectations for direct-to-video sequels, this is still a disappointing attempt at trying to replicate the success of its modestly successful predecessor
There are two Deleted Scenes in the disc- the first with Hatosy’s Sullivan returning home drunk to his pregnant wife and the other with Kingston in a church. Both are equally unnecessary to the plot, especially the former which boasts some cringe-worthy dialogue.
Four featurettes are also contained on this disc. ‘Murder Scene Deconstructions’ looks at how cast and crew prepared for the shooting of the three murder scenes in the film, and how they tried to differentiate each from the other. Unfortunately, the end result on film is nowhere near impressive.
‘Creating a Convincing Cop Story’ has the director and the scriptwriters talk about how they tried to make their setting as authentic as possible, including the kind of guns that cops of Sullivan and Kingston’s personality would carry in real life.
‘An Explosive Opening’ looks at the messy opening sequence which establishes the partnership between Kingston and his three partners who were deep undercover together some years back. Speaking of which, the sequence looks poorly choreographed on screen.
Finally, ‘Motor City Setting’ talks about the Detroit setting of the movie, which apparently has influenced the crew in its choice of cars for the shooting.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is surprisingly anaemic, leaving much of the sound to come front and centre. Visuals are clear, but some scenes at night seem brighter than usual, as if filmed on digital camera a la ‘Collateral’.
DVD RATING :
Review by Gabriel Chong