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Tuesday, 17 January 2012

"Street Kings 2: Motor City" Review

"Street Kings" is an interesting movie because it appears to be the only occasion on record in which Terry Crews has worn Sleeves for the whole time he was in a film:

"Yo Ludlow - What is this shit covering my arms, man? I gotta let these guns BREATHE, son."

It is also a clever police thriller, with a lot of twists, and some really decent action. It makes you think, and also contains some really well written characters: some of them just cool, and some with whom you can really empathize. Street Kings was the first movie I saw Chris Evans in and thought he was half decent (so well behind the curve of that one: should have watched "Sunshine" when it came out, really, since the Ads ruined it on TV anyway), and despite the ending being a slight let-down, the story up to that point is solid, with every new twist being as exciting as the last, and the audience never knowing what is going to happen next. It had its moments of retardation: the scene in which Reeves and Evans kit themselves up with shotguns, which then disappear completely in the next scene so they only have handguns when they get into a firefight is just ridiculous. But all in all, it was a very entertaining movie.

Not to mention the poster is fantastic for trolling. I mean, come on, there's a guy in it named "Common".

Not only this, but Street Kings finally allowed me to crack "The Keanu Code". You see, a lot of people complain that Keanu Reeves can't act: he's very wooden, has a monotone voice, and doesn't seem to be very expressive. However, after watching Street Kings, I finally realized why this is. It's not because he is a bad actor: it's because he is typecast in the kind of movies where the character would have these traits. Think about it: In "Street Kings" he is an overly-paranoid alcoholic cop. In "Constantine" he is a depressed addict who has actually seen hell. In "The Matrix" he is an anti-social hacker who works a job he hates and probably has autism, who becomes unsure of whether or not he is living in the real world. And in "The Devil's Advocate", he plays a Southerner. In every one of these films, it makes sense that the character wouldn't show any real feelings, and Street Kings therefore proved to me that Keanu Reeves can, in fact, act: just only in very specific roles.


Street Kings was also nice in that it appeared to have been made by a fellow "House" addict. When Hugh Laurie (who plays the captain of the IA team investigating Forrest Whittaker's outfit) is introduced, he is in a hospital, and spends the entire scene sitting in a chair - you know, because of his limp. And whilst Liotta's character being shot in the leg and developing a limp in "Street Kings 2" may have been an homage to this (if you squint) - it just didn't have the same epic feel as the original.

Or the obvious sexual tension. Speaking of which, aren't they remaking Top Gun?

The main problem Street Kings 2 has is that it shares its name with "Street Kings". Unfortunately, this inevitably leads to you comparing it to the original movie the whole time you are watching it, even though it was almost certainly written as a completely  independant movie, and simply had the "Street Kings" name tagged on the front of its actual title, "Motor City" in order to sell more copies. And whilst this will result in people like me buying it because they enjoyed the first Street Kings, it also is gonna result in a lot of disappointment, because quite predicatbly, it does not live up to the hype which the title creates.

"Street Kings 2: Motor City" starts just terribly, with a necessary but badly shot and badly set-up scene at the start in which we see Liotta getting shot in the leg, then proceeds to get even worse. We see Liotta teaching a group of schoolchildren about police work whilst dressed in a dog suit, and it feels as though we are already straying into "Big Mommas House 2" territory only 3 minutes into the film. As Liotta meets his new partner, the stereotypical young go-getter cop who makes fun of the old ways, we start to worry about just how cliched and dull this movie is going to be, and when the murders and suspicion around which the rest of the movie revolves begin to unfold, the audience is left bored to tears - literally nothing interesting happens in the first half hour or so of this film.

Things get a little more interesting, however, when during the murder of the third cop involved in the deep cover narcotics team we open on, is murdered. The reason things become more interesting is that we see his killer: Ray Liotta. Now, this may have been fairly predictable, and I had a hunch that Liotta was going to turn out to be the killer in the end. However, revealing him as the killer so early on in the film changes the dynamic of things, and the movie is then allowed to unfold in a far more interesting fashion than if it had focussed entirely on the solving of the case, with the killer's identity being the big ending "twist". From this point on, the movie certainly becomes more interesting, as we learn more and more about Liotta's plot to get rid of the cops he thought were going to rat him out to Internal Affairs, and take revenge on the dealer who got away at the start by framing him for these murders. However, this story arc too is ultimately fairly cliched and predictable, and whilst far more enjoyable than the first quarter of the movie, still does not manage to save it.

Don't get me wrong - this film has some absolutley golden moments in, which were well worthy of the "Street Kings" branding. The discussion between Liotta and Sullivan (our hero for most of the movie) in front of the captain when the two are first paired together has one of the most inspired pieces of dialogue to come out of a straight-to-DVD release in a long time:

Kingston: I worked homicide for one year and in that time I put away more criminals than you have in your whole life!

Sullivan: I've only been on the force 9 months.

Kingston: Exactly.

And the scene on the train in which the criminal who Liotta has framed for the murders is cornered, and then taped by a passenger, is incredibly well done, and was very enjoyable. And yet, this movie is lacklustre at best in the end, and didn't seem to reward the viewer with much. Whilst "Street Kings" had a plot which unfolded like an intricate web, with twists and turns being thrown in constantly, and the audience always being left in suspence right up until the finale, "Motor City" has just the one twist, and not an overly complex plot to help back it up. And whilst it is decent for a movie obviously shot on hand cameras with a very low budget, it really shouldn't have aligned itself to a much better made movie, because the comparisons just kill it.

Just like Terry Crews, amirite?

There were other things that bothered me about "Motor City" besides the plot and Cinematography as well. The acting is fairly hit-and-miss at the best of times, and Armand Benoit, who plays Sullivan (Liotta's new partner, and the main hero of the piece) doesn't seem to be able to get into character properly - he is very clearly trying to act, rather than trying to portray a person. The head cock he does with his one liner in the closing scene is probably the worst example of this, but there are other moments throughout the film where he does this as well. Of course, he has his moments too: such as when he is in the hospital waiting room after his wife is blown up by a car bomb - but for the most parts he really doesn't seem convincing. Plus, it's fairly distracting that he looks just like a fat Shia LaBeouff.

According to Wikipedia, he played Nicholas Cage's partner in "The Bad Lieutenant", which is odd, because I'm fairly certain Val Kilmer was Cage's partner in that film - unless he has multiple partners in that film, though I must admit, I don't recall Benoit being in it. Hell, if you had just told me that Benoit was in "Bad Lieutenant" and asked me to guess who he played, I probably would have thought he was the guy who was drowning in his cell near the start, and who we see working in a hotel at the end, not Cage's partner. You know, that or I would have said he was the wrestler who killed his family and then hanged himself from his weights rack.

the awkward moment when you realize a guy nicknamed "The Crippler" might have anger issues...

The ending, as well, just seemed really poor to me. Not only was the car exploding ridiculous and over-the-top (which I can live with, since I loved "The Long Good Friday", and that contains the most retarded vehicle explosion in motion picture history: a stock car blowing up when it crashes into another. You know, a car from that sport in which the vehicles are designed to crash into one another), and the fact that Sullivan somehow got out without us seeing was just as bad, but the ultimate climax of the film where he and Liotta face off was just disappointing as well. It was supposed to be a powerful emotional scene, clearly. And yet, it still didn't feel like a big deal. Not only that, but having just seen "10 to Midnight", I have a fairly good idea in my brain of what a scene involving a cop shooting an unarmed suspect who is trying to talk him out of it in full view of a bunch of other officers should look like, and the ending to "Motor City" didn't come close to that ending.

"You want to use the ending from one of my films? No dice..."

All in all, a poor effort, and a real step-down for Liotta. I don't mind him starring in no-budget films - "Cop Land" was great - but this movie just didn't do it for me. And whilst it was bearable enough for me to sit through the entire thing, and not just turn it straight off and watch "Neds" instead (which I also picked up today, but decided to save on the assumption it will be the better of the two films), it had nothing on "Street Kings", or any other half-decent cop movies for that matter. It is relatively fun, with the occassional interesting or dramatic moment, but overall is a giant let-down. Hell, even the pimp-tastic car wasn't as cool as Denzel's in Training Day...



2 stars

Not an awful movie, but I wouldn't exactly recommend it either. It has its moments, but just not enough of them to keep you entertained throughout. There is a nice reversal in the style of storytelling part way through, and some of the scenes unfold nicely, but that's about all I can say for it. It is a fairly clever movie in some ways, but doesn't live up to many of its competitors in the same genre. Maybe pick this one up if you see it in a bargain bin or something, but don't spend £5 on it like I did (I got "Hard Boiled" and "The Killer" for less than that combined!). Definitely stick with the original Street Kings if you're going to watch one of them.


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