Of all the straight-to-video titles I didn’t expect to see, Street Kings 2 would be high on the list. The original film was a predictable film with bad pacing. The box office was no better. That film pulled in about $26 million and quickly faded into obscurity. But here we are two years later and the title has been attached to a direct-to-video release from Fox. None of the original characters or actors are found here. The title merely suggests a similar story, this time in the Motor City, Detroit.
The film opens with a drug bust gone horribly wrong. Detective Marty Kingston (Liotta) is injured in the violence and spends his recovery at a desk and playing a department crime dog mascot at elementary schools. When his partner turns up shot and killed, Kingston injects himself into the investigation led by a green detective Sullivan (Hatosy). At each turn the investigation appears to paint an ugly picture of the deceased detective. He was as dirty as they come and mixed up in all sorts of seedy deals. It seems hard to believe that Kingston wasn’t aware of his partner’s dirt. Then other cops implicated in the corruption end up killed, and soon we understand Kingston’s motives for being a part of the case.
Street Kings 2: Motor City is better than you would expect. It really owes nothing to the original and might have been better off by not being forced into its titular association with the failed original film. The performance by Liotta is one of his best. The direction is solid and the film moves along at a brisk pace, not wasting time on false leads and the usual twists and turns. By the end of the first half hour the movie has laid all of its cards on the table. You are shown who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. There’s still plenty of suspense, because we don’t completely understand the motivation or the history behind the story. That’s the biggest flaw of the script. There’s not enough setup, and it makes it hard to fully engage in the story that we do see. Even the bad drug bust was an afterthought and not part of the original script. A little more time getting a feel for the history between Kingston and his quickly dead partner would have gone a long way.
The film is a gritty one, and the Detroit locations help out immensely. I kind of feel sorry for Detroit these days. Once a glorious city fat on the huge money brought in by the automobile industry, it is now a common example of a city in decay. Since Robocop, the city has often been selected for its crumbling infrastructure and dilapidated buildings. Give director Chris Fisher some credit for mixing his images of urban decline with a fair amount of the brighter side of the city. There are locations here that have been largely ignored by the film industry, and the contrast makes for a far more interesting and atmospheric movie.
You do have to make some rather incredible leaps in logic here. It doesn’t seem likely that a young and inexperienced detective would be put in charge of a cop killing. If you buy a greater level of corruption, you might surmise that a young cop might not have had time to get deeply embroiled in the mire of a corrupt force. But I don’t think the film is trying to paint a Serpico level of a dirty department here. This would have been handled by a seasoned vet. It also stretches believability that no one questions how Kingston could have been so unaware of his partner’s actions. It’s hardly likely he would be put on the investigation. Even without the dirt angle, Kingston hasn’t fully recovered from his own injuries, and he would be deemed too close to be a part of the investigation. There would also be more than two cops put on a case involving an officer, particularly when corruption is implied and certainly once two other officers are killed.
In the end, the movie is just good enough to be an interesting diversion. It doesn’t take itself so seriously that it paints itself into too many twists or corners. There’s a mix of periods and styles that add a certain noir element to the movie. The costumes and architecture are decidedly 1940’s, while the cars are all 1970’s muscle cars. The dialog sounds like it came out of a Mickey Spillane novel at times. All of these elements keep the film fresh enough to be worth a quick rental.
Street Kings 2 is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average only 22-25 mbps. The image is so stylized that it’s hard to really pin down the quality. Colors are a bit on the cool side and are somewhat desaturated. Black levels are fair, but again it’s more a matter of style. It’s not a terribly dynamic high-definition image presentation, but there is some nice detail and texture at times.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is somewhat more dynamic. The firefights come alive both in surround use and in powerful range. The subs are particularly extra fine and really rip with explosions and score. Dialog is just fine and perfectly front and center. The source music gets a bit too urban and loud at times, but that’s really intentional.
All in HD.
Deleted Scenes: (2:35) Two scenes with no play all option. It’s really just filler.
Murder Scene Deconstruction: (12:10) A closer look at the kills.
Creating A Convincing Cop Story: (5:12) Focus here is on the guns.
An Explosive Opening: (4:59) A closer look at the drug bust scene.
Motor City Setting: (4:37) Cast and crew talk about filming in Detroit.
Weapons Check Personality File: Take a 4-question quiz and find out what kind of weapon best suits your law-enforcement style.
Chris Fisher is fresh off the new Hawaii Five-O series where he directed a couple of solid episodes. He knows how to make locations work, and that’s the strength of the movie. It’s not the kind of thing you’re going to want to see over and over again, but it does offer some strong performances and atmosphere. It doesn’t really break any new ground in the “dirty cop” genre. It may not really have any association with the first movie; still it does learn something from that effort, “because crime doesn’t pay”.