starring Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie, Chris Evans
screenplay by James Ellroy and Kurt Wimmer and Jamie Moss
directed by David Ayer
by Walter Chaw Keanu Reeves's turn on the ring-around-the-mopey of skeezy LA crime dramas based on (or written by, or inspired by, or ripped-off from) James Ellroy's hard-boiled noir prose is David Ayer's second time around this track, Street Kings. No wonder it feels weary and worked-over, then, from the opening blare of an alarm clock to a gritty™ conclusion that suggests that the status quo is FUBAR--always has been, always will be, now with mas macho! Close your eyes and without any mental flexing replace Reeves with Ethan Hawke or Christian Bale or Scott Speedman or Joaquin Phoenix, or sub Reeves's character's commanding officer Wander (Forrest Whittaker) with similar wool-clad bogeys done not better but identically by Kurt Russell and James Cromwell. It's never a question of who's rotten in the force (everybody, stupid), never in question what the role of the anti-hero will be. Rather, it's mainly a matter of what place vigilante justice will have in this moral quagmire of due process vs. capping the hoods and letting the legal vultures pick over the sticky wickets. It's the Dirty Harry school of hanging judgment--the iconography of Eastwood and Bronson and Stallone in the '80s (culminating for the latter in the ultimate state-sanctioned vigilante, Judge Dredd)--and it's only really interesting for its popularity again amid the reign of a President who's modeled his administration after Reagan's. Why this concern about the breakdown of due process and the futility of real justice during terms that give lip-service loudest to a return to values? We only make films this ugly and futile when to a large extent we've abandoned any hope that our institutions of security will protect us from the night.