Street Kings Blu-ray Review
PictureStreet Kings comes to Blu-ray with an outstanding 1080p High Definition video presentation in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. First up, let me say this is an extremely dark movie. The majority of the movie is set at night, or in dark apartments, obviously to add to the intensity and oppressiveness of the affair - so the video rendition has to go some way to keep up with this kind of material. Clarity is strong throughout, with keen facial observation, and minute attention to detail even on the backgrounds and sets. The longer shots are richer and offer up authentic backdrops and we see no significant signs of edge enhancement, softness never becoming an issue and grain only ever appearing briefly in what could easily have been an intended fashion. The colour scheme is restricted mostly due to the setting, but still accurately represents the LA streets, skin tones looking good, blood looking real. Some of the scenes are purposefully biased with green or blue hues but, no matter what they offer up, and however dark the sequences get, the picture remains extremely good - blacks solid and dominant throughout. It is difficult to appreciate this as an outstanding video presentation because it isn't some big, visually magnificent Michael Bay affair - it's a dark, broody police thriller. Underrated as it may be, it is still great, right up to and including a gorgeous orange-red California tequila sunrise glimpsed towards the end.
SoundTo accompany the movie we get a powerful DTS-HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio Track that creates a perfect atmosphere for the proceedings. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently, from Reeves gruff, brooding monotones to Whitaker's over-the-top showboating, largely presented across the frontal array. In terms of effects, the gunshots provide all the punch, the shootouts offering up some prime examples of track dynamics, bullets pounding into the wall next to your ear and shotgun blasts echoing around your living room. Some noisy car moments mostly come courtesy of a nice Dodge Viper and all of the smaller, more atmospheric elements are reasonably well observed, creating an authentic feel for LA crime nightlife. The scoring is pretty damn good as well (helped by the presence of DJ Muggs - Cypress Hill/Soul Assassins on a Graeme “Sin City” Revell-dominated track) offering up some nice rumbling beats for the more tense, dramatic moments, and allowing the action sequences to come into their own, despite one out of place moment during the - almost comical - complaints montage. Overall it is a great aural offering which may not push the boundaries of its technically superior specifications, but nevertheless comes pretty close, and presents this movie admirably.
ExtrasThis release is absolutely packed with extras. On the High-Def exclusive front we get Picture-In-Picture capabilities with the “Under Surveillance: Inside the World of Street Kings” facility. This enables you to watch the movie with a frame within the screen that offers up interview footage and text trivia. All of the interviews are available to watch separately and include discussions on the music used, the accuracy of the LA police and street life portrayed, the work and research done with the actors to make the characters feel more authentic (including weapons training), the costume design, the LA gang history, Internal Affairs, police procedure, casting and much more. The trivia is quite intensive, mostly covering police-related information about gang injunctions, standard operating procedure, the purview of the Vice division and so forth, and between the two supplements, we get an almost-constant stream of information coming at you whilst the movie is playing in the background. It is one of the best uses I have seen of the PIP facility.
The Commentary by Director David Ayer actually manages to provide plenty of information that is not revealed within the extensive PIP track, with the competent director discussing everything from how he shot the scenes to the original story ideas and concepts (it was once titled “The Night Watchman”) and why things were changed around. He talks about film noir, the lack of any innocents - just varying shades of corruption, the pairing up of Reeves and Whitaker, the locations used and how the captured the 'magic hour' sun-on-the-horizon moments. Ayer spends a little bit too much time talking about which filming crews were used and how they captured the look for certain scenes - which can get a tiny bit tiresome - but thankfully the commentary is peppered with more interesting trivia about the cast, characters, story and script. Overall it is a worthy listen for fans of the movie.
There is a wealth of Deleted material, some of which could have been kept in to give the characters - and thus the movie - more depth. We get 12 minutes of Deleted Scenes, which range from the watchable to the worthless. The first few certainly offer us more into Ludlow's central character, mainly by giving us further background into the death of his wife, with more scenes with his ex-partner and with his girlfriend, but after that it degenerates into pointless moments of Whitaker cooking whilst watching the news on TV. The Alternate Takes are segregated for no apparent reason - as there is little discernable difference between them and the Deleted Scenes. Still we get a further 30 minutes of footage, which has some good moments. Ludlow's “black and white in a black and white” dialogue with his girlfriend should have been kept in, and the (here extended) complaints montage clearly works much better without the comedy scoring in the background. There is also a fairly significant alternate ending - at least in dialogue terms - which adds a further dimension to the betrayals uncovered. It might have been a little too clichéd to include by itself in the final cut, but with some other scenes re-inserted, and more character development, it might have worked. There are certainly quite a few gems amidst such a plethora of deleted material (along with optional Commentary for some of them) and those fond of the movie should definitely sift through it all.
Street Rules Featurette: Rolling with David Ayer and Jaime FitzSimons is an 18-minute fly-on-the-wall Documentary with the Director and Police Technical Advisor driving around some of the more dangerous parts of LA, the Rampart division and the police station there. They talk about everything from the press portrayal of the LAPD to the locations (relating them back to what was shown in the movie) and everything in between. The former Detective Sergeant is quite an interesting contributor, always understating his experience and knowledge of the City and it's dark underbelly, when it is clear from a few of his comments that he has been through quite a lot. This marks another worthy extra to adorn the disc.
LA Bete Noir Featurette: Writing Street Kings is a slightly more fluffy 5 minute offering, with lots of cast and crew soundbites interpliced with key clips from the movie. It does give us some nice trivia into the original Ellroy screenplay, how it was adapted and changed into the final product, but nothing too extensive or revealing - mainly due to the time constraints. The Street Cred Featurette lasts a brief 4 minutes and looks at some of the real 'street' people brought in to make the movie more authentic, as well as the rappers on board for similar reasons. Unfortunately it is blindingly short and barely gets started before it ends, offering us absolutely nothing of any substance.
City of Fallen Angels - Making of Street Kings is a 12 minute Documentary created by HBO, and you can immediately tell due to the hugely promotional style of the production. The behind the scenes glimpses are quite nice (particularly of Reeves and Chris Evans on the range), but the interview snippets can get a little irritating - you just want to hear the whole damn interview! There is far too much film footage shown here - more than half of the Featurette - and it is possibly the least watchable extra on the disc. To accompany the overly promotional 'Documentary' come 4 Vignettes (Crash Course, Heirs to the Throne, Inside Vice Special Unit, Training Days) that are nothing more than extended trailers, offering the same style of interview snippets-edited-with-film-footage (and most of it we have heard before), and lasting a total of 8 minutes.
There are also 4 Behind the Scenes Clips: In Training, Car Rig, Squibs and On Set. Lasting just a total of 4 minutes, at least it's all pure behind the scenes footage, with no wasted promotional guff. The shooting montage is nice, and seeing the car rigged with four cameras is quite interesting, but the other two minute-long offerings are too short to be of any significance. Finally, to round out the disc we have a whole bunch of Theatrical Trailers and some oddly chosen Previews of other Blu-ray releases.
VerdictStreet Kings is a taut, tense police thriller, with classic film noir stock and style injected into it, and some solid performances - including Reeves towards the top of his game and Whitaker totally off his game. Despite not actually being that original, the end result still feels fresh and remains engaging throughout. On Blu-ray, the release boasts a superior video presentation and solid audio track, along with a comprehensive set of extras that fans can spend hours enjoying. This gets a recommended rental to all, but if you even slightly like the genre or the author - or if you are indeed already a fan - then it deserves a blind buy. You won't be disappointed.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £39.98
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