It seems that in the last 20 years, most of the police saga movies use Los Angeles as the backdrop, with the story revolving around the LAPD (which I guess makes sense if you want to keep the movie's travel expenses to a minimum). But in "Street Kings," the story is more about corruption at the highest levels in the department than about a murder investigation.
Detective Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) is told more than once that he is the kind of cop that is "needed" on the force, one who gets the job done even if it is accomplished outside the rules. The opening scenes have Ludlow dealing with some local Korea Town bad guys that have kidnapped two young girls. Ludlow allows them to steal his GPS-equipped car so he can locate their hideout and free the girls. But instead of calling in the SWAT team, he goes in alone, guns blazing, and kills the entire gang, and then fakes the crime scene so it looks like all his actions were done by the book.
To say Ludlow is a renegade is putting it mildly, but he also has principles that he lives by. Let's not forget he's an alcoholic, as his favorite beverage of choice (just before facing a perilous situation) is straight vodka from the tiny bottles they typically serve on airlines. In Ludlow's corner is his commander, captain of the vice squad Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker), who openly supports and covers up Ludlow's nefarious ways. Internal Affairs captain James Biggs (Hugh Laurie from television's popular "House") knows what's going on and is out to stop them from continuing their rogue activities.
When Ludlow's former partner, Terrence Washington (Terry Crews), is gunned down in a bodega, Ludlow is determined to find the killers. Ludlow teams up with a young detective (played by Chris Evans) who is investigating the murder, and the two of them begin to unravel the plot with all its twists and turns.
I found the acting top-notch, with Forest Whitaker almost as good as he was in "The Last King of Scotland." This also may be one of Keanu Reeves' best acting roles, with a more mature character now that he will turn 44 this year. A little disappointing was Hugh Laurie's character; instead of creating a new persona, most of the time the script had him sounding just like the sarcastic Dr. House.
The action is fast-paced and very bloody (i.e. not for the squeamish) with attention-keeping dialogue. If you are a "cops and robbers" movies fan, you will want to see "Street Kings."