Street Kings

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Street Kings
Street KingsMP08.jpg
Promotional movie poster
Directed by David Ayer
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by James Ellroy
Music by Graeme Revell
Cinematography Gabriel Beristain
Edited by Jeffrey Ford
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release dates
  • April 3, 2008 (2008-04-03) (Hollywood premiere)
  • April 11, 2008 (2008-04-11) (United States)
Running time
109 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $20 million
Box office $65.6 million[1]

Street Kings is a 2008 American crime thriller film directed by David Ayer, and starring Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie, Chris Evans, Common and The Game. It was released in theaters on April 11, 2008.

The initial screenplay drafts were written by James Ellroy in the late 1990s under the title The Night Watchman.


Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) is a disillusioned LAPD Vice detective working for a unit known as Vice Special and haunted by the death of his wife. Working undercover, he meets with Korean gangsters (whom he believes have kidnapped two Korean schoolgirls) in a parking lot, who are looking to buy a machine gun from him. After a vicious beatdown, the Koreans then proceed to steal his car but this was however planned and he has the cops locate the vehicle via GPS. Upon arrival at their hideout, Ludlow storms in and kills the four inside before he then locates the missing children after the shootout and making out that he killed the gangsters by returning fire. While the other officers in his unit congratulate him, he is confronted by his former partner, Detective Terrence Washington (Terry Crews), who no longer approves of the corruption as well as the deception and has gone straight, reporting the problems to Captain James Biggs (Hugh Laurie), of internal affairs, who apparently starts an investigation against Ludlow.

Believing that Washington was "snitching" on him, Ludlow follows him to a convenience store to beat him up. However, Washington is executed in the store in an apparent gangland hit albeit with heavy fire by two gangbangers under the pretense of a robbery. Though Ludlow is innocent and the two were working together to fight back, the surveillance video of the shootout shows him to have accidentally shot Washington while trying to protect him with his .38 revolver, which can heavily implicate him in the murder. The DNA of two criminals known as Fremont and Coates is found at the scene, as well as a large amount of cash in Washington's possession. It is assumed that Washington himself was corrupt, despite his seemingly changed attitude, and that he had been stealing drugs from the department's evidence room and selling them to Fremont and Coates. Ludlow teams up with Detective Paul "Disco" Diskant (Chris Evans), who has been assigned to the case to join him in his personal investigation.

Their search for the two involves some tough interrogation of a Latino gang member named Quiks (Noel Gugliemi), a Crips gang member named Grill (The Game), and a drug addict/dealer named Winston "Scribble" (Cedric the Entertainer), which eventually leads them to a house in the hills where they discover the bodies of the real Fremont and Coates buried in a shallow grave. The condition of the bodies makes it apparent that they were killed well before Washington's murder. Ludlow and Disco, posing as dirty cops who are willing to take over Washington's supposed activity of stealing and selling drugs, are able to set up a meeting through Winston with the two criminals masquerading as Fremont (Cle Shaheed Sloan) and Coates (Common). Freemont and Coats then recognize Ludlow as the cop that was present at the convenience store robbery, prompting Ludlow to question who Freemont and Coats really are, and in turn Disco quickly states he recognizes the two, and he is shot and killed immediately, along with Winston. Ludlow manages to kill both men and escapes back to his girlfriend's house, where a news report reveals the killers were undercover LASD deputies (Wander later states that the two had been in deep cover for so long that they "lost their fucking minds" and had become corrupt cops).

Shortly afterward, Ludlow is subdued at his girlfriend's house by Detective Cosmo Santos (Amaury Nolasco) and Detective Dante Demille (John Corbett), two fellow officers from his unit who admit that they planted Fremont and Coates' DNA and the drugs at the scene of Washington's murder, and Ludlow learns that it was their captain, Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker), not Ludlow, that Washington was giving up to Biggs, and they were the ones that were stealing drugs from the department's evidence. The two cops take Ludlow out to the house where the two bodies were found earlier for execution. However, Ludlow manages to kill both of them. He then heads to Washington's house to take care of their supervisor, Sergeant Mike Clady (Jay Mohr), who was about to kill Washington's widow, whom he later captures and places in the trunk of his car.

Ludlow eventually learns that he has been a pawn in a plan masterminded by Captain Wander. He shows up at his house intending to kill him and after a brief struggle, he finds out that Wander has incriminating evidence against almost all in the department, as well as judges, councilmen and politicians. With so many people in Wander's pocket, he has been able to quickly move up the department's ranks as well as conceal his unit's corruption. He then tries to convince Ludlow that he is his friend and best officer before trying to bribe him with a large amount of stolen money and incriminating documents hidden in a wall of his home. Angry with all that he has been made privy to and how it has come about, Ludlow shoots and kills Wander.

Captain Biggs and Sergeant Green arrive at the scene, and he reveals to Ludlow that they used him to bring down Wander and get access to his files by opening his eyes to the real corruption going on within his unit. As he leaves, Biggs tells Ludlow that the department does need him.



In 2004, it was announced that Spike Lee would be directing the film for a 2005 release.[2] In 2005, it was announced that Oliver Stone was in talks to direct the film.[3] However, Stone later denied this.[4] Training Day screenwriter David Ayer took over the project.

On February 5, 2008, it was announced that Fox Searchlight Pictures changed the film's title from The Night Watchman to Street Kings.[5]


Critical response[edit]

Street Kings received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 36% rating, based on 151 reviews, with an average rating of 5.1/10. The site's consensus reads, "Street Kings contains formulaic violence but no shred of intelligence."[6] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 55 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[7]

Box office[edit]

In its opening weekend, the film grossed $12 million from 2,467 theaters, finishing second at the box office. It went on to gross $26.4 million domestically and $39.2 million internationally for a total of $65.6 million.[8]

Home media[edit]

The DVD was released on August 19, 2008, as a single-disc offering with director commentary, and 2-disc special-edition set with numerous documentaries, interviews and a digital copy of the film. It is also available on Blu-ray disc with all the special features of the 2-disc DVD version.


The film is followed by a sequel, Street Kings 2: Motor City, which was released direct-to-video in 2011.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "The Night Watchman Movie - Keanu Reeves to Star in The Night Watchman (Street Kings)". 2004-11-16. Retrieved 2012-05-22. 
  3. ^ "The Night Watchman Movie - Oliver Stone May Direct The Night Watchman (Street Kings)". 2005-04-25. Retrieved 2012-05-22. 
  4. ^ var authorId = "" by IGN FilmForce. "IGN: Stone Denies Night Watchman". Retrieved 2012-05-22. 
  5. ^ "The Night Watchman Retitled to Street Kings". 2008-02-05. Retrieved 2012-05-22. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Street Kings (2008): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2014-10-25. 
  8. ^ "Street Kings (2008) - Weekend Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. IMDB. Retrieved 2008-08-01. 

External links[edit]