Street Kings

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Street Kings
Street KingsMP08.jpg
Promotional movie poster
Directed by David Ayer
Produced by Lucas Foster
Alexandra Milchan
Erwin Stoff
Screenplay by James Ellroy
Kurt Wimmer
Jamie Moss
Story by James Ellroy
Starring Keanu Reeves
Forest Whitaker
Hugh Laurie
Chris Evans
The Game
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)
Running time
109 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $20 million
Box office $65.6 million[1]

Street Kings is a 2008 American action 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 Tom's car. Tom however planned on this and has the cops locate the vehicle via GPS. Upon arrival at their hideout, Tom storms in and kills the four inside with his .45 Smith & Wesson 4506 pistol, and then locates the missing children after covering up what really happened. While the other officers in his unit congratulate him, he is confronted by his former partner, Detective Terrence Washington (Terry Crews). Washington no longer approves of the corruption and deception and has gone straight, reporting the problems to Captain James Biggs (Hugh Laurie), of internal affairs, who starts an investigation against Ludlow.

Upset at Washington for "snitching", Ludlow follows him to a convenience store to confront him. 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, with Ludlow present. Though Ludlow is innocent and he and Washington were working together to fight back, the circumstances (including that during the shootout Ludlow accidentally shot Washington while trying to protect him with his .38 Charter Arms Off Duty revolver) 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 other criminals including a Latino gang member named Quiks (Noel Gugliemi), a Crips gang member named Grill (The Game), and a drug dealer named Winston "Scribble", 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 (Cedric the Entertainer) 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 convenience store robbery, causing 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 with his .45 M1911A1 pistol 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 had all but forgotten they were 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. 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 with a shovel and Demille's .45 Kimber Custom pistol. 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. Ludlow shows up at Wander's house intending to kill him, when Wander reveals that he has incriminating evidence on just about everybody 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 burying his unit's corruptions. Wander tries to convince Ludlow that he is his friend and best officer, and tries to bribe him with a large amount of stolen money and incriminating documents hidden in a wall of his home. However, Ludlow, disgusted with Wander's corruption and the murders of his fellow officers on Wander's orders, shoots and kills Wander with his M1911A1.

Captain Biggs and Sergeant Green arrive at the scene and reveal that they used Ludlow to bring down Wander and get access to his files by opening Ludlow's eyes to the real corruption going on within his unit. As he leaves, Biggs tells Ludlow that the department does indeed need men like 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 reception[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 an estimated $12 million in 2,467 theaters in the United States and Canada, ranking 2 at the box office. As of August 1, 2008 the film made $26,418,667 domestically and $39,154,220 internationally totaling $65,572,887 in worldwide sales, making it a moderate financial success.[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.


While including a plot about corruption, an otherwise 'in name only' sequel, Street Kings: Motor City, starring Ray Liotta, 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]