The DVD in widescreen aspect was filmed in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. It used 5.1 Dolby Surround sound. It comes in French, English, and Spanish audio tracks as well as subtitles for English and Spanish. The packaging is standard DVD packaging with single disk tray and no inside leaflet. On a side note, it really burns me that studios and DVD distribution companies don’t go the extra mile to put the extras in the packaging. I pay $20 for a DVD and I fully expect little extras like the paper with the chapter index inside the DVD case. Ten years ago, every DVD had a leaflet in it; some even had a pamphlet with a small glimpse inside the making of or cast of the movie I just purchased. Since not including these little extras has apparently become the standard, I really cannot fault the studio, production company, or the distributors. No compression artifacts could be seen and the video was clear on my 37” Sanyo. While I do not have my surround sound hooked up yet, I cannot say as to the 5.1 sound.
Other than an audio commentary by the director and a few trailers, the extras were somewhat lacking. A behind-the-scenes or making of documentary could’ve been good, but no such luck.
The Cast and Crew
Keanu Reeves as Det. Tom Ludlow, Forrest Whittaker as Cpt. Jack Wander, Chris Evans as Det. Paul Diskant, and Hugh Laurie as Cpt. James Biggs. Jay Mohr, John Corbett, and Terry Crews are some of the supporting cast. Add rapper/actor Common, The Game, and comedian Cedrick the Entertainer to the mix and the cast is complete. Keep a watch out for the Appearance of Daryl Gates as the Chief of Police. Daryl Gates, if you will recall, was the actual Chief of Police in Los Angeles who had to retire in the aftermath the Rodney King verdict in 1992.
Directed by David Ayer and based on a story by James Ellroy, the screenplay being written by James Ellroy, Kurt Wimmer, and James Moss. The movie was released by Fox Searchlight and Regency Pictures, and distributed by Fox searchlight, this movie was released in theatres on April 3, 2008.
What can I say about this movie except that it is a pure James Ellroy story. James Ellroy also wrote the book The Black Dahlia (which the movie of the same name is based on) as well as the book LA Confidential (which the movie of the same name is based on). This movie also deals with corruption of the LAPD much like LA Confidential did. James Ellroy also helped write the screenplay to this movie which he had not previously done with the other two movies I mentioned. The movie, directed by David Ayer, has some of the same feel as another one of his works. More on that later.
The Movie starts off with Det. Ludlow (Keanu Reeves, Neo from the Matrix Trilogy) waking up in his modest abode and preparing for work. Ludlow is a Vice Special Detective in a unit run by Captain Wander and is somewhat of a lose cannon. However, we learn quickly after the opening sequence that Captain Wander is always there to help Ludlow out of the trouble that Wander always helps him get into. This is a somewhat typical “cop on the edge” story that is vaguely reminiscent of, and in my opinion draws upon, the first Lethal Weapon movie’s character Martin Riggs. The correlations are there from the “don’t give a shit” attitude to the fact that both character’s wives died. Similarities between Ludlow and Riggs are also evident in the force in which they carry out their jobs. For instance, Ludlow is referred to as “phonebook Tom” because it is said that his best confession came from beating a suspect “with a ‘91directory.” In the aftermath of the opening sequence, Ludlow is approached by his former partner Detective Washington (Terry Crews from Terminator: Salvation) who, as we will find out, is informing Internal Affairs Captain Biggs (Hugh Laurie, TV’s House M.D.) about Ludlow’s dirty deeds. Captain Biggs approaches Ludlow in the hospital and tells him to call him before it’s too late.
This is where the story starts to take twists and turns. Captain Wander is up for promotion to Commander and tells Ludlow to stay clear of Washington. In the meantime, Washington gets killed by gangbangers robbing a convenience store where Ludlow was going to confront Washington about the Internal Affairs investigation. In the gunfire, Ludlow accidently shoots Washington in the back while trying to kill the gangbangers. Wander steps in and removes evidence that could harm the team and keeps Ludlow safe for now. In order to help Ludlow, Wander transfers him to the complaints department where he is back in uniform and taking complaints about officers from citizens and learns something about the “cookie jar” from one of his complainants. While Ludlow tries to find out more about Washington’s murder, he meets Detective Diskant (Chris Evans from The Fantastic 4) who is working on the Washington case and also informs Ludlow that Washington was selling confiscated heroin to the same gangbangers that murdered him. Those two guys also got off of previous charges due to a technicality caused by Washington. It is understood that someone told Det. Diskant to finish the case and make it go away in order to protect Ludlow. The two then team up in order to find out who killed Washington in order to put this matter to rest by posing as Washington’s replacement “connections” for the dope dealers.
The last part of this movie is filled with the exposition of the plot twists that, without spoiling the movie, results in one very interesting ending to an entertaining movie. Does Diskant and Ludlow get the revenge that they go to find? Does Captain Wander help Ludlow again? What is the “cookie jar” and how does it relate to the corruption? Does Captain Biggs take down Vice Special Unit? Was Washington working with the gangbangers and selling them confiscated dope? Where does the corruption stop?
This movie ends in the way that a lot of James Ellroy’s stories end. It’s not a happy ending, but it isn’t a sad ending either. It is sort of amoral, much like the characters that Ellroy writes in his books and films. Ludlow is not a bad guy, but he isn’t a good guy either. It is the eternal character struggle that makes these types of movies enjoyable. Captain Biggs said it best when he asked Ludlow if “Washington got killed because he was dirty, or because he was becoming clean?” So is this movie a continuation on the age-old debate of good vs. evil, or is this just a cop thriller that entertains you for two hours? I think that it is a story that has been told a bunch of times before and will be told a bunch of times again.
The movie more than made its money back, but was not a “blockbuster” by any means. It also is one of those movies that people (especially critics) love to pick apart. I read one review of this movie that had a paragraph about how Hugh Laurie (who is British) has a shitty American accent. Is this movie the best cop thriller out there? No. Is it a blow-shit-up kind of movie? No. Will it entertain you? There is the question. In my opinion, it is a good movie, but not great. Keanu reeves did ok, but the role that he was best in was as redneck wife beater Donnie Barksdale in 2000’s The Gift. He was great in that role, but only a little more than average in this role. Forrest Whittaker was great as always, a joy to watch. So I give this movie a Recommended rating because it was a good movie as far as plot, but it was a tad predictable, the acting wasn’t the best I’ve seen, and there were no special features to speak of.
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However, if you think you might like this movie, make it a double feature night at your house and pick up a movie from 2001 called Training Day starring Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. Training day is the story of a rookie cop (Hawke) on his first day as a narcotics officer who is being trained by a veteran narcotics officer played by Washington. This movie was written by the director of Street Kings David Ayer, and has the same feel to it as if the director of Training Day and he collaborated on it. This movie gave Denzel Washington an Oscar for best actor and Ethan Hawke was nominated for best supporting actor. Excellent movie.