Though conceived as yet another sobering frontline report on law enforcement's ever-expanding gray area, director David Ayer's grim police thriller mostly plays as one long dick-measuring competition. Keanu Reeves (blank as ever) is Los Angeles detective Tom Ludlow, an ethically slippery, alcoholic lawman reeling from his wife's death. When his estranged partner (Terry Crews) is gunned down in a seemingly random liquor-store holdup, Ludlow goes on a one-man crusade to track the killers, despite Internal Affairs' growing interest in his past indiscretions. Ayer, who rose to prominence writing mega-macho pictures like S.W.A.T. and The Fast and the Furious, demonstrated a flair for subtler examinations of male power relationships with Training Day and his 2006 directorial debut, the underrated buddy drama Harsh Times. Unfortunately, Street Kings' screenwriters (James Ellroy, Kurt Wimmer, and Jamie Moss) have no time for subtlety, assaulting the ear with an arsenal of dull tough-guy dialogue as the male characters take turns mowing down each other's manhood and delivering hard-boiled pseudo-knowledge about the nature of evil. The film is so concerned with kicking ass and taking names that the infinitely more complex drama that Ayer could have made drowns in all the testosterone.
Keanu keeps the Street clean.
Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., April 11. Rated R. 107 minutes.