Metascore
55

Mixed or average reviews - based on 28 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 12 out of 28
  2. Negative: 2 out of 28
  1. "Kings" covers familiar territory but does so with ruthless efficiency, intense performances and a densely packed plot designed to highlight the moral issues that most concern Ayer and Ellroy.
  2. Reviewed by: Joe Neumaier
    80
    After its clichéd first scene - a solo LAPD officer battling a well-armed gang of thugs - Street Kings becomes an enjoyably tough, blood-splattered action drama that revolves around the one good cop at its center.
  3. Reviewed by: Peter Debruge
    80
    A brutal look at police corruption that allows director David Ayer and "L.A. Confidential" author James Ellroy to pool their deeply cynical insights.
  4. There's a lot to appreciate in Street Kings, a tight, propulsive action thriller, but there's one thing to marvel at, and that's James Ellroy's command of story.
  5. It’s easy to laugh at Street Kings for its bigger than big emotions, its preposterously kinky narrative turns and overwrought jawing and yowling, but there’s no doubt that it also keeps you watching, really watching, all the way to the end.
  6. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    70
    Armed or not, Reeves is the weapon that can go off at any time. That's why Street Kings, though it isn't a great movie, is a pretty damn cool Keanu Reeves movie, one that on the Reevesian action scale measures somewhere between "Whoa" and "Wow."
  7. A solid contemporary crime drama.
  8. 63
    The picture may feel more than a little familiar, but Ayer knows how to cook up intense setpieces, and Reeves keeps getting better at the weary hero role he continually gravitates toward.
  9. 63
    A wet, red chunk of pulp that knows what it is and doesn't care.
  10. 63
    Street Kings is nonsense, and yet the crooked, racialized world underneath the soulless mayhem is pretty fascinating.
  11. 63
    Despite the predictability of the overall story arc, there's suspense and tension to be found between the credit sequences, but the movie is saddled with an ending that is both improbable and borderline insulting.
  12. Reviewed by: Jenni Miller
    63
    If you’re looking for some big, stupid fun, you could do worse than Street Kings.
  13. Reviewed by: Ian Nathan
    60
    Another mean, violent and decently acted slab of Ellroy-flavoured criminality, with an impressively battered Keanu Reeves, but Ayers is no Curtis Hanson.
  14. Every so often, Keanu Reeves' robo-voiced blankness serves him well, but when he has to play a pulpy, tormented demon-saint, scraping up insults and spitting them out like bullets, he's like the host of an infomercial doing an impersonation of a badass.
  15. 58
    For what's essentially a bad movie, Street Kings is fairly tight and energetic.
  16. It's hard to recall another time when the cross-purposes of two collaborating filmmakers of a major film has been quite so evident, or when the theme of the movie itself has been so totally schizophrenic -- half populist outrage, half Nazi.
  17. 58
    See it with people who take it for the trash it is, and you can cheer the baroque killings and laugh fondly with Forest Whitaker as he tries too hard to create a domestic sociopath to match his role as "Idi Amin."
  18. 58
    After all the actorly fireworks, Street Kings concludes that the LAPD is an institution where even the well-intentioned can't work clean. Okay. What else?
  19. 50
    The acting? Common and the Game score as baddies, but Hugh Laurie as an acid-tongued internal-affairs cop is disappointingly just House without the limp.
  20. I enjoyed parts of Street Kings but I didn’t believe one thing about it, and I couldn’t get past Reeves’ unsuitability to his role. He may someday play a cop on the edge convincingly, but the edge needs to be sharper than this.
  21. 50
    There are two kinds of police officers in David Ayers and James Ellroy's convoluted, ultraviolent tale of corruption within the LAPD: dirty cops and dirtier ones.
  22. Reviewed by: Tim Grierson
    50
    Ayer's grim police thriller mostly plays as one long dick-measuring competition. You sense that an infinitely more complex drama exists within the film's grasp, but no one bothered to stop guzzling the testosterone long enough to find it.
  23. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    50
    There's something cynical about Ayer's attempt to preserve Ludlow as a hero after scene upon scene meant to show, with heavy irony, how lawlessly he enforced the law. You can't lionize your "Dirty Harry" vigilante and expose his hypocrisy, too.
  24. 50
    It preserves the peculiar machismo of Ayer's earlier projects: the alpha male dominates not only because he's the most powerful, but because he's the most jaded.
  25. All the movie's treacheries, deceptions and story twists are marred by our lack of innocence. We see the big picture way before the characters do, and that pushes us right out of the movie and back into our seats -- the last place we want to be.
  26. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    38
    Wastes a moderately intriguing premise by filling it with laughably clichéd dialogue, one-dimensional characters and implausible turns of events.
  27. 30
    Two things come to mind as you watch the first act of Street Kings, the first is how fresh and exciting the movie would’ve been if it was released in 1984, the second is the question, “James Ellroy wrote that?”
User Score
7.4

Generally favorable reviews- based on 75 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 27 out of 30
  2. Negative: 1 out of 30
  1. Sep 3, 2013
    7
    This review contains spoilers, click full review link to view. This is a sort of Keanu Reeves' comeback flick. After The Matrix trilogy ended, he was in a number of unsatisfactory, mediocre works, such as "Constantine", "The Lake House" and "Thumbsucker". This role is rather strange to him, playing a down-on-his-luck detective, a loose cannon who lives from day to day. And considering that, he does a good job. Only problem is that, aside from Forrest Whitaker, there aren't any other equally capable actors here and some are quite annoying as well. Chris Evans, of The Fantastic Four fame, tries hard but fails as the serious and dedicated sidekick det. Diskant. Of other notable appearances there is the rapper The Game, who is at least authentic in his part.

    I was rather surprised by this film. I must say I didn't expect much from it, but it turned out to be a rather satisfactory film-noir thriller. Reeves might not look his part but he acts it. It is also flawed because of the way everyone is either good or bad, nobody is in between. Reeves' character at first seems to be in between but later turns out to be a typical hero. What else can I say? A little, pleasant surprise and a movie that probably salvaged Keanu's career, at least for the time being, after a string of misfired efforts.
    Full Review »
  2. Jul 20, 2013
    9
    'Street Kings' is certainly a cut above most other gritty cop dramas, hardly surprising since it was written by James Elroy, the master of the genre. If you haven't read 'American Tabloid', go out and get it. I'd say it's genre defining, it's that good. Like many like all the big Hollywood stars, Keanu almost always plays himself, which serves him well playing edgy, emotionally spent Detective Tom Ludlow. Forest Whitaker is absolutely brilliant, probably the best role he's had since 'Ghost Dog'. He's fantastic to watch in the riveting, final scene, I think there's great chemistry between Whitaker and Reeves. I loved the snappy, 'street jive' type dialogue, and much of the story is quite believable, if somewhat convoluted, but never contrived or boring. Like another reviewer said, I think it sort of comes together a bit quick at the end, I would've enjoyed another 20 mins to flesh the story out a bit more. Hey, I could watch this stuff all day, it's that good. Yet again, the critics are clueless, 'Street Kings' is a really entertaining film, highly recommended. Full Review »
  3. Mar 14, 2013
    5
    A great cast wasted on a tired story and inevitable twist. The film starts out pretty well, but soon descends into cliche and formula. Still, worse ways to kill a couple of hours. Full Review »