A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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."
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?
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