Street Kings

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
Street Kings Movie Poster Image
Grim, brutal bad-cop drama isn't meant for kids.
  • R
  • 2008
  • 107 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Corrupt cops, cruel criminals, and frustrated women (all of whom are girlfriends and wives, not cops or criminals). Some iffy racial undertones.


A man is killed while seated on the toilet (no explicit imagery except a bloody chest wound). The hero shoots multiple suspects in avenging sort of fury. A primary character escapes captors by crashing a car (loud, long screeching). Fights result in bloody, gashed faces. A primary character is shot and dies with bloody mouth and gurgling. Another primary character is shot point blank and dies. Rescued young girls were raped.


Rescued kidnapped girls had been caged and tied; some discussion that they've been raped and used for prostitution. Flirting and passionate kissing between Tom and Grace (she closes a hospital curtain so they can embrace). Sexual slang includes "p---y," "prick," and "blow job."


Incessant, tough-cop language, with very frequent uses of "f--k" (several with "mother-") and "s--t." Other profanity includes "hell," "damn," "ass" (several with "hole-"), and "bitch." Racist slang includes "dink," "short-eyed," and the "N" word.


Chips, sodas, and beer labels are glimpsed in a convenience store.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigarette smoking and drinking (beer, vodka, other liquor) by major and minor characters; marijuana use. Thematic focus on drug dealing, which involves several shots of piles of drugs (referred to as "dope"). References to Viagra and illegal drugs.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this grim Keanu Reeves crime drama isn't for kids. The story (about corrupt cops) is brutal, the action is aggressive and bloody (leaving some characters with lacerations and bandages and others graphically dead), and the "moral" is familiar and subjective. Weapons include guns, knives, and cars; characters drink, smoke, and do drugs. There's some brief heavy breathing and kissing, as well as references to prostitution and rape (concerning young kidnapped girls). Language is incessant, with the favorite term being the standard cop-movie expletive, "f--k."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written by4Spice July 29, 2010

good killing movie

good cop killing movie lots of action parents dont let kids see his movie 16 and over for intense violence intense language mild sex and drama
Adult Written byYldnole June 23, 2009

Better than the reviews

Very violent and relistic cop moivie. Just caught it on cable...tons of f-bombs and other inapropriate verbage for kids. But...a really intense movie for those... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byInvalidReviews2017 March 31, 2017

Don't bother with this violent, bad cop drama.

I watched this because Keanu Reeves was in it, but I wasted my money. It's grim and bad, too much violence and swearing doesn't make the movie any bet... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byoctober1985 July 17, 2009
There's little to no sexual content, but it's fairly violent, bloody and profane. It's a good movie though, sort of like Training Day.

What's the story?

Life is grim for L.A. Detective Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves). In the first moments of STREET KINGS, he wakes up in his clothes from the night before, vomits, and then heads off to buy vodka to prepare for an undercover gun deal. Still, he's good at shooting and not getting shot, so he's the "golden boy" of Captain Jack Wander's (Forest Whitaker) corrupt strike squad. After years of lying in their reports, the team comes under internal affairs scrutiny, which leads to the murder of Tom's ex-partner (Terry Crews). Tom decides to solve the case, getting unexpected help from a gung-ho younger investigator (Chris Evans) and surly oversight by another captain (Hugh Laurie). Ultimately, Tom has to decide whether to remain loyal to the team or do the right thing.

Is it any good?

Directed by David Ayer -- who wrote Training Day and wrote and directed Harsh Times -- Street Kings is pretty much more of the same. The lone (white) hero must navigate the mean streets, confront an array of differently raced opponents (including Koreans, Hispanics, and African Americans here), and, oh yes, bed a "hot" Latina love interest (Martha Higareda). While Tom's boss attributes his bad behavior -- drunkenness, use of excessive force, general bad mood -- to the fact that his wife was cheating on him and then died, Tom's lack of focus doesn't actually grant him much in the way of "motive."

Worse, for all the lip service given to Tom's terrific intelligence and instinct, he's awfully slow on the uptake. Viewers can tell which characters he can and can't trust as soon as they pop up on screen, but somehow Tom is tricked repeatedly. By the time he runs into a cliché of a gangster (played by the ever-smooth Common) who calls himself "straight nightmare," you're so far ahead of him that you wonder if he'll ever catch up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why revenge is such a popular/common plot device. What do characters typically hope to gain through revenge? Do they? Also, why do you think so many cop movies focus on police corruption? What elements tend to play into cops going "bad"? Do you think that's realistic?

Movie details

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