Anchor Bay // 2009 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge William Lee // July 31st, 2009
The Big Easy is losing the fight.
"The rule of thumb in the drug world when there's this much money is
that there is always law enforcement corruption."
-- Andy Devereaux (Val Kilmer)
It's six months after Hurricane Katrina and the illegal drugs trade in New Orleans is up for grabs. A turf war is brewing between the heavily armed street gangs and it's up to the Mid-City division of the Metro Police force to restore order. A cop in the only task force that isn't a laughing stock of the force is Andy Devereaux (Val Kilmer, Willow). His new partner, Stan Green (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Righteous Kill), has transferred in from Chicago and he's shocked to see how much his fellow cops are willing to bend the rules to get results. Meanwhile, FBI Agent Brown (Michael Biehn, Planet Terror) is determined to take down Andy and his crew for corruption.
Set in a recovering New Orleans to lend the story timely credibility, Streets of Blood is simply a generic crime movie. Standard issue tough guys shoot it out until there's one man left standing (sorry, spoiler warning). It is the kind of story that could be set in any city at any point in time. That the filmmakers want to frame this material as a story of post-Katrina New Orleans is a superficial gesture.
To restore law and order to New Orleans, the police have been allowed some latitude in their methods of operation, we're told by Capt. John Friendly (Barry Shabaka Henley, Collateral). That's right, the police captain is Friendly. As a result, Mid-City division -- the only division that gets results -- is staffed with a variety of bad cops. That doesn't leave the viewer with many options for characters with whom to sympathize.
Andy Devereaux (Kilmer) has a couple of ghosts haunting him. His father, a hero cop, was killed in a park and now Andy takes nightly patrols through "his" park to chase out drug dealers. Andy's partner was killed during the looting that took place in the wake of Katrina's devastation. Andy tells the department psychiatrist, Nina (Sharon Stone, Basic Instinct 2), that he's the only clean cop left. Yet, he has no problem beating information out of suspects, concocting stories to explain the firefights he initiates and forming alliances with even dirtier cops.
Stan Green (Jackson) is Andy's new partner. He's uncorrupted (in case you missed that), but house payments plus the wife and three kids make the stacks of drug money they frequently find very tempting. Stan might be intended as the viewer's surrogate into this morally compromised world but Jackson's performance makes him pretty insubstantial. Despite his tough talk, Stan is always in the shadow of Andy's swagger. The character should be torn by the ethical conflict he's faced with but instead he comes across like an annoying fence sitter.
There are two other dirty cops in the division named Pepe and Barney, played by Jose Pablo Cantillo (Redbelt) and Brian Presley (Home of the Brave) respectively, who are really rotten apples. They're not above planting evidence and having on-the-job sex with witnesses. As required by the script and the Movie Cop Dress Code, Pepe and Barney quickly establish themselves as Latino hothead and dumb white guy, then do nothing to break those stereotypes.
Lacking any characters that would inspire sympathy, the script moves through several action scenes without a moral compass for direction. After Pepe and Barney kill an undercover DEA agent (or was he a gangster informant?) the FBI put the division in their sights. That doesn't stop Andy and Stan from walking into a drug den with guns blazing on the trail of...well, I'm not sure what. There's a turf war happening among the gangs who control the drugs and the solution is for these four cops to shoot up the city like cowboys. Apparently, racking up a big body count is the same as collecting evidence.
Director Charles Winkler has plenty of experience on television productions and it shows. The pacing of scenes -- especially the way they end and the transitions to the next -- often feels as though they're timed to accommodate commercial breaks. Action scenes are competently staged though heavily reliant on the editing. The use of flashbacks, signaled by aggressive video effects, is an uneasy fit that feels stylistically out of place and needlessly suggests red herrings.
The picture on this Anchor Bay DVD release is acceptable for the solid colors, favoring green and yellow, and deep black levels with a small amount of grain. However, the image appears overly sharp which gives the movie a harsh, unflattering video look. The 5.1 surround sound is fine with active use of all channels. There were a few moments when I had trouble making out Kilmer's dialogue, due to the low mumble in which he delivers his Louisiana-accented lines, but for the most part the dialogue is clear and the sound effects are strong.
Though set in New Orleans, the production took place in Shreveport. Still, Streets of Blood is proudly filmed in Louisiana and the filmmakers' support of film production in that state is to be commended. However, their movie's link to the tragic events of Hurricane Katrina is superficial. Using footage of the flood devastation, the opening titles remind us of the events in the moment and closing credits show us that three years later there are still ruins where neighborhoods once stood. Aside from an opening scene where Andy and Stan meet on a flooded street, the movie has very little to do with what happened to New Orleans during and after Katrina. Using the flood footage to add relevance to this unexceptional action movie stinks.
Long before the smoke cleared, I didn't really care who came out on top in this dirty cops versus gangsters story. There's not much at stake for viewers when we're given unlikable characters in a story that is both ethically and structurally confused.
Review content copyright © 2009 William Lee; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R