Monday, September 05, 2016

Hollywood Goes Slumming: The Ayer Up There

,,,I hate to ask this question, but as a hooligan I'm sort of obliged to.  Is master storywriter James Ellroy a one-hit wonder?  I think he kind of is.  Of course, Brian DePalma could f... screw up a baked potato, we all know that.  I know that the confidently-titled Cop was heralded by critics as the product of Kubrick collaborator James Harris.  I also know that if you want to see a real renegade cop, 2011's Rampart is the one to watch.  And even though I haven't seen either of the Bad Lieutenants, I understand that they're quite accurate indeed, when it comes to the subject of renegade cops.
I consider myself kind of a connoisseur of the genre, which is why I can say, with 95% confidence, that Keanu Reeves does a really, really, really poor job of playing a cop in general, and corrupt cop with a heart of gold in particular, in 2008's Street Kings.
My apologies to John Wick, actually, because Mr. Reeves brought a little more credulity to that role.  I guess playing an assassin with a heart of gold is just more fun.  Aw, shucks.
As for David Ayer, well... he is a bad-ass, as this picture of him proves.  But from what little I know of the inner workings of Hollywood, you can either be the heir to Ellroy's throne, or the latest and the greatest with the popcorn flicks... but you can't do both.  I'll admit that Training Day and Harsh Times had panache, and in a way, Harsh Times is a better movie, but both kinda fall apart towards the end... but Street Kings?  Where to begin.
I'm going to cut Forest Whitaker some slack, if only because of Ghost Dog, but as penance for this, I do believe he has to play the lead in the Steve Harvey bio-pic that Tyler Perry is currently developing for... let's assume TBS.  He plays the head of Keanu's unit in this turkey.
For the screenwriters out there, we start with an opening episode to introduce Keanu's character.  He plays Detective Robert Ludlum... sorry, I mean Tom Ludlow.  He stops the alarm clock, looks in the bathroom mirror, then spits out a gentlemanly amount of vomit into the toilet and flushes it right down.  You may have read about that in your Maxims, your GQs, your Esquires, what have you.  He then sets up a deal with some bad guys, apparently Korean, who take Keanu up on his offer of a car with an oversized machine gun in the trunk.  See, to really seal the deal, and get the guys to do what you want them to, you have to use ethnic slurs.  Learned that from Dennis Hopper's glistening example in Tony Scott's True Romance.
Keanu tracks down the car, takes a police vest out of the hidden and his police pistol out of a secret compartment in the trunk, then goes to mow down a couple bad guys.  Oh, and earlier we see a Missing Persons poster in the background at one point... are the two related?  Flip a coin.  Hey, you gotta be fast these days, people!
To cut to the chase, it's similar to the girl that Russell Crowe rescues in L.A. Confidential.  Okay, so that's the opening salvo.  Now, let's get to the episode that consumes the rest of the film, because that's what it does.  We're more or less introduced to Keanu's ex-partner, Terry Crews.  He had more fun in Harsh Times, no two ways about it.
Whitaker and the rest of his team, that Keanu kinda doesn't want to be a part of, warn him to stay away from Crews.  Next scene: Keanu follows Crews to a convenience store.  JUST THEN... two homeboys wearing homeboy kerchiefs over their faces pull up to the convenience store as well.  Keanu goes inside to find Crews.  Soon after, the two homeboys pump about fifty bullets into the clerk behind the counter.  Then, they pump about fifty bullets into Crews.  The coroner only finds eighteen... we'll save that for later.  Maybe they were just bad shots.  Hard to miss at that distance, though!  Oh, and Keanu accidentally pumps one bullet into Crews' shoulder blade.  I think that detail comes up later, I just can't remember that good.
I use the phrase "Hollywood Goes Slumming" because every once in a while that's what Hollywood does.  Take The Saint of Fort Washington, for example, when Hollywood was very briefly interested in homelessness.  These days, let's face it, it's hard enough just keeping up with the Kardashians as it is.  Are they cancelled?  Aren't they?  And what does Us Magazine have against the mother, anyway?  Why the awful picture on the cover?  Anyway, the longer you watch Street Kings, the more star-studded it gets.  Cedric the Entertainer?  House M.D.?  Captain AMERICA?!!!  The guy currently married to living with Bo Derek in Santa Barbara?  He plays Detective Cecil B. DeMille... sorry, I mean DANTE Demille.  Boy, am I having trouble with names today.  I seem to be singling out Mr. Corbett, because he and Keanu seem to be suffering from a phenomenon that can affect the average Hollywood actor.  I haven't come up with a catchy enough phrase for it yet, but I'm getting there.  Maybe something like "Faux Crazy Syndrome."  Well, you know how it is, people.  It's a fine line.  My favourite example of this is Jon Bon Jovi in Pay it Forward.  He plays Helen Hunt's abusive ex-husband who comes back, then leaves again, saying "I liked you better when you was a prostitute!"... something like that.  Okay, the actual line, according to its IMDb Quotes page, is "You know, I liked you better when you've had a few drinks in you!"  Trust me, ladies... they're kinda the same thing.  Anyway, I'm kind of a connoisseur of anger, if only because it happens so rarely to me personally, so it gives the finite episodes that much more import, but it seemed to me that Bon Jovi didn't want to come off as a mean bastard, so he didn't put the heart and soul into the line reading that, say, an ACTUAL actor would.  Now, Corbett's a little guilty of this syndrome himself... but even he comes across a little more convincing than Keanu.
There's probably some other details worth highlighting in Street Kings.  I'll confess there are the occasional flashes of the old Ellroy brilliance.  Okay, so maybe he's not a one hit wonder... I mean, for God's sake.  He's not Neil Gaiman here!  But I would like to spoil the film's big finale.  Keanu has Forest Whitaker handcuffed to a staircase railing in his house... a short one.  Oh, another oversight: Whitaker's character should be a family man, not just another one of the dudes.  No wife and children are present.  Keanu's about to shoot Whitaker, when Whitaker tells Keanu to go over to the wall and break it down... thereby setting up a similar scene in John Wick, incidentally.  Keanu starts tearing down the wall to find bundles of money stashed inside it, much like the shipping container in Lethal Weapon 2.  One of the other critics called Street Kings an ode to the 1980 actioners of old, like Lethal Weapon 2.  I heartily disagree, given Ellroy's pedigree, and the considerable lack of giant action setpieces.  Anyway, I had a little trouble with this placement of money.  Sure, I can understand that Whitaker's character is privy to a lot of L.A.'s secrets, which we see in plenty of loving 2nd Unit shots, incidentally, and I understand that Whitaker's character would want to save up some money for a rainy day.  But really?  Putting cash behind a wall that you'd have to break down like that?  Wouldn't you do that with, say, diamonds?  Or maybe just have a really good safe instead?  Not one from Costco or Wal-Mart, but maybe a more custom job?  Maybe even one in the floor like Joe Pesci had in Casino even.  I mean, the whole point of a big pile of money like that is to be able to occasionally grab some of it to go shopping with.  Zero Mostel taught me that in The Producers.  I don't want to have to keep breaking down a whole wall to get some cash!  I'm no house builder or anything.  I'd have to call an expert to fix that wall!  Then I'd have to explain about the cash and all that... you get the idea.  What a hassle.  Probably have to have the guy killed, like Fremont and Coates and what not. what do you think?  Get Street Kings on Blu-Ray or what?

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

1 comment:

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