Street Kings is a 2008 action-crime mystery directed by Training Day scribe David Ayer and written by Kurt Wimmer and Jamie Moss based on an original story by popular crime fiction writer James Ellroy. It stars Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, Chris Evans, Hugh Laurie, Terry Crews and Naomie Harris.
Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) is a disillusioned LAPD Vice detective working for a unit known as Vice Special and haunted by the death of his wife. Working undercover, he meets with Korean gangsters (whom he believes have kidnapped two Korean schoolgirls) in a parking lot, who are looking to buy a machine gun from him. After a vicious beatdown, the Koreans then proceed to steal Tom's car. Tom however planned on this and has the cops locate the vehicle via GPS. Upon arrival at their hideout, Tom storms in and kills the four inside, and then locates the missing children after covering up what really happened. While the other officers in his unit congratulate him, he is confronted by his former partner, Detective Terrence Washington (Terry Crews). Washington no longer approves of the corruption and deception and has gone straight, reporting the problems to Captain James Biggs (Hugh Laurie), of internal affairs, who starts an investigation against Ludlow.
Upset at Washington for "snitching", Ludlow follows him to a convenience store to confront him. However, Washington is executed in the store in an apparent gangland hit albeit with heavy fire by two gangbangers under the pretense of a robbery, with Ludlow present. Though Ludlow is innocent and he and Washington were working together to fight back, the circumstances (including that during the shootout Ludlow accidentally shot Washington while trying to protect him with his off duty .38) can heavily implicate him in the murder. The DNA of two criminals known as Fremont and Coates is found at the scene, as well as a large amount of cash in Washington's possession. It is assumed that Washington himself was corrupt, despite his seemingly changed attitude, and that he had been stealing drugs from the department's evidence room and selling them to Fremont and Coates. Ludlow teams up with Detective Paul "Disco" Diskant (Chris Evans), who has been assigned to the case to join him in his personal investigation.
Their search for the two involves some tough interrogation of other criminals, which eventually leads them to a house in the hills where they discover the bodies of the real Fremont and Coates buried in a shallow grave. The condition of the bodies makes it apparent that they were killed well before Washington's murder. Ludlow and Disco, posing as dirty cops who are willing to take over Washington's supposed activity of stealing and selling drugs, are able to set up a meeting with the two criminals masquerading as Fremont and Coates. The meeting goes bad when they recognize Ludlow and when Disco recognizes the two, he is shot and killed. Ludlow manages to kill both men and escapes back to his girlfriend's house, where a news report reveals the killers were undercover LASD deputies (Wander later states that the two had been in deep cover for so long that they had all but forgotten they were cops).
Shortly afterward, Ludlow is subdued at his girlfriend's house by Detective Cosmo Santos (Amaury Nolasco) and Detective Dante Demille (John Corbett), two fellow officers from his unit who admit that they planted Fremont and Coates' DNA and the drugs at the scene of Washington's murder and Ludlow learns that it was their captain that Washington was giving up to Biggs. The two cops take Ludlow out to the house where the two bodies were found earlier for execution. However, Ludlow manages to kill both of them with a shovel and Demille's Kimber 1911 pistol. He then heads to Washington's house to take care of their supervisor, Sergeant Mike Clady (Jay Mohr), whom he later captures and places in the trunk of his car.
Ludlow eventually learns that he has been a pawn in a plan masterminded by Captain Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker). Ludlow shows up at Wander's house intending to kill him, when Wander reveals that he has incriminating evidence on just about everybody in the department, as well as judges, councilmen and politicians. With so many people in Wander's pocket, he has been able to quickly move up the department's ranks as well as burying his unit's corruptions. Wander tries to convince Ludlow that he is his friend and best officer, and tries to bribe him with a large amount of stolen money and incriminating documents hidden in a wall of his home. However, Ludlow shoots and kills Wander.
Captain Biggs and Sergeant Green arrive at the scene and reveal that they used Ludlow to bring down Wander and get access to his files by opening Ludlow's eyes to the real corruption going on within his unit. As he leaves, Biggs tells Ludlow that the department does indeed need men like him; officers who are willing to bend the rules, but are ultimately honest at heart.
- Keanu Reeves as Detective Tom Ludlow
- Forest Whitaker as Captain Jack Wander
- Hugh Laurie as Captain James Biggs
- Chris Evans as Detective Paul Diskant
- Cedric the Entertainer as Winston AKA "Scribble"
- Common as a psychotic and corrupt LASD deputy masquerading as "Coates"
- The Game as Grill
- Jay Mohr as Sergeant Michael "Mike" Clady
- Terry Crews as Detective Terrence Washington
- Naomie Harris as Linda Washington
- Martha Higareda as Grace Garcia
- John Corbett as Detective Dante Demille
- Amaury Nolasco as Detective Cosmo Santos
- Clifton Powell as Sergeant Green
- Cle Shaheed Sloan as LeShawn, a corrupt LASD deputy masquerading as "Fremont"
- Noel Gugliemi as Quicks
- Daryl Gates as Chief Gates
- Angela Sun as Julie Fukashima
- Michael Monks as Pathologist
- Kenneth Choi as Boss Kim
- Walter Wong as Thug Kim
- The film received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 36% rating, based on 151 reviews, with an average rating of 5.1/10. The site's consensus reads, "Street Kings contains formulaic violence but no shred of intelligence." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 55 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
- In 2004, it was announced that Spike Lee would be directing the film for a 2005 release. In 2005, it was announced that Oliver Stone was in talks to direct the film. However, Stone later denied this. Training Day screenwriter David Ayer took over the project.
- On February 5, 2008, it was announced that Fox Searchlight Pictures changed the film's title from The Night Watchman to Street Kings.
- In its opening weekend, the film grossed an estimated $12 million in 2,467 theaters in the United States and Canada, ranking 2 at the box office. As of August 1, 2008 the film made $26,418,667 domestically and $39,154,220 internationally totaling $65,572,887 in worldwide sales, making it a moderate financial success.
- The DVD was released on August 19, 2008, as a single-disc offering with director commentary, and 2-disc special-edition set with numerous documentaries, interviews and a digital copy of the film. It is also available on Blu-ray disc with all the special features of the 2-disc DVD version.
- While including a plot about corruption, an otherwise 'in name only' sequel, Street Kings: Motor City, starring Ray Liotta, was released direct-to-video in 2011. That same year, another sequel-in-name only to a David Ayer project titled S.W.A.T.: Firefight to Ayer's 2003 film S.W.A.T. was also released straight to DVD and Blu-Ray.