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Street Kings 2: Motor City
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by Jack Sommersby

"Substandard 'Street'"
2 stars

One of those RedBox selections you'd be more than wise in skipping over, believe me.

Despite some snazzy cinematography, decent craftsmanship, and one outstanding performance, the straight-to-video Street Kings 2: Motor City is just another run-of-the-mill crime-action movie that's woefully short on originality and chock-full of familiarity. There was absolutely no reason for this cliche-ridden mess to have been financed in the first place, aside from trying to milk some kind of cash cow out of fans of the (mediocre) original who might go into this thinking that this supposed sequel bears any kind of relation to it, which it doesn't excepting the misleading title. Well, not completely misleading, because the story does in fact take place in Detroit -- that's the one kernel of truth in its entire egregious body. Ray Liotta, who worked these same streets alongside Jason Patric in the interesting Narc a few years ago, stars as Marty Kingston, a police veteran who's been on the sidelines for the last three years after being shot in the leg during an undercover drug buy gone bad; he still has a limp and has been relegated to desk duty, much to his frustration and chagrin. But he's placed smack-dab in the middle of the action when his previous partner is murdered and he's assigned to the case because of his close relationship to him; there are accusations from informants that the partner was dirty, and soon Internal Affairs is looking into the case, as well. Of course, this being that kind of leave-no-contrivance-untouched movie, Kingston is partnered up with a freshman plain-clothes detective, Dan Sullivan (Shawn Hatosy), and, guess what, they have an initial dislike for one another! But after a few days they thaw out a bit, and soon they're having family barbeques and get-togethers like they were going out of style. (The luscious Charlotte Ross from TV's NYPD Blue even shows up as Kingston's wife.) Right when the tedium factor starts becoming truly suffocating, however, we find ourselves yielding to the charismatic, detailed performance by Hatosy, who's done a good many TV cop shows himself but plays his part like he'd never played a cop before -- he manages to breathe some fresh life into it and we're enjoyably held in his capable mitts. Hatosy isn't exactly physically imposing (Liotta has a good five or six inches on him), but when his character is bracing and intimidating lowlifes, he's quite forceful; a former minor-league baseball player who became a cop because his father was one who lost his life in the line of duty, Sullivan's no one to mess with. Coupled with that, he's fiercely intelligent, focused, and has a real knack for the work. It's believable that he'd earn Kingston's respect, which is good because their jobs are made even harder when more cops in the narcotics division start turning up dead; and, again, there's the implication that they were "dirty." But in quite the miscalculation, the largely-inexperienced screenwriters, Ed Gonzales (making his debut) and Jeremy Haft (who penned only one other feature, the 1997 Dan Haggerty star vehicle Grizzly Mountain), tip us off far too early that the culprit behind the slayings is Kingston himself.

Maybe if the character had some interesting dimensions and Liotta weren't practically sleepwalking (he played a corrupt cop with way more edge in the otherwise-negligible Unlawful Entry), the match-up between Kingston and Sullivan could've resulted in some tantalizing mind games in the order of the fascinating ones between Richard Gere's masterful corrupt cop and Andy Garcia's determined IA officer in Mike Figgis's fine Internal Affairs. But the writing takes the easy way out in relying on far too many coincidences to be even remotely plausible; and the violence resulting from these is too over-the-top -- if the real word worked this way, the evening news and newspaper Metro sections would be teeming with more eyes than those on Facebook and celebrity-nude sites combined. Street Kings 2 is a purely perfunctory exercise trying to skate by on the utmost minimum to get by, to give action junkies their fix by supplying more in the way of padding than fine-grain context in between the car chases and shootouts. The dialogue isn't dire but far from even semi-memorable, the supporting characters very weakly drawn, there isn't much in the way of tension and tautness, and a scene where Kingston tries justifying his corruption by citing his family's medical-related financial needs goes in one ear and out the other we've heard thin variations of this numerous times before. (At least Internal Affairs, which had a flawed conclusion, conjured up some camp value in having the villain call the hero a selfish yuppie right before being blown away.) Still, the movie isn't completely disreputable because it does move forth with some semblances of assuredness; it's generally well-made as far as these things go. Director Chris Fisher, taking a break from his stint on the updated Hawaii Five-O television series, has a fruitful visual eye for expressive composition -- he loves contrasts in primary and secondary colors, especially in the backgrounds -- and while it's occasionally distracting in that a really showy shot serves no real visual purpose, it keeps our eyes sated as compensation for our ears having to take in the aural tedium from those people called actors whom the writers have saddled with oodles of vacuous verbiage. And the cinematographer, one Marvin V. Rush, also a TV-show veteran, deserves at least a B-plus for his effort, too -- he has a much more cinematic eye than many regularly-employed cameramen of bigger-budgeted movies that actually make their way to cineplexes. (Can anyone seriously aver that Green Lantern and Iron Man 2 were in any way pleasurable to the eye to take in?) So why all this underwhelming, undemanding material they've chosen to serve with a lot more talent than it even comes close to deserving? For money, obviously, but doesn't TV work pay just as well? Breaking into the straight-to-video league doesn't strike me as grandiose and worth bragging about, especially when the movie is its own worst enemy. For all its tired triteness, Street Kings 2 has all the staying power of a thirty-second teaser trailer.

What an utter waste of time and effort.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=22515&reviewer=327
originally posted: 07/21/11 08:47:15
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USA
  N/A (NR)
  DVD: 19-Apr-2011

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Chris Fisher

Written by
  Ed Gonzalez
  Jeremy Haft

Cast
  Ray Liotta
  Shawn Hatosy
  Clifton Powell
  Charlotte Ross



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