Street Kings

Last updated
Street Kings
Street KingsMP08.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by David Ayer
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story byJames Ellroy
Music by Graeme Revell
Cinematography Gabriel Beristain
Edited by Jeffrey Ford
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures [1]
Release date
  • April 3, 2008 (2008-04-03)(Hollywood)
  • April 11, 2008 (2008-04-11)(United States)
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million [2]
Box office$66.5 million

Street Kings is a 2008 American action thriller film directed by David Ayer, and starring Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie, Chris Evans, Common and The Game. The initial screenplay drafts were written by James Ellroy in the late 1990s under the title The Night Watchman.


The film was released in theaters on April 11, 2008 and was followed by a direct-to-video stand-alone sequel Street Kings 2: Motor City in 2011, with Clifton Powell returning as a corrupt cop.


Tom Ludlow is a disillusioned, borderline alcoholic LAPD detective working undercover for a unit known as Vice Special. He meets in a parking lot with Korean gangsters who are looking to buy a machine gun from him and whom he also believes have kidnapped two Korean schoolgirls. After a vicious beatdown, the Koreans steal his car. This was planned, however, and he has the cops locate the vehicle via GPS.

Upon arrival at their hideout, Ludlow storms in and kills the four gangsters inside, he then puts on gloves, takes a shot of vodka and alters the scene to make the shootings look justified. He then finds the two schoolgirls locked in a closet. While the other officers in his unit congratulate him, he is confronted by his former partner, Detective Terrence Washington, who no longer approves of the corruption as well as the deception and has gone straight, reporting the problems to Captain James Biggs, of Internal Affairs, who apparently starts an investigation against Ludlow.

Believing that Washington was snitching on him, Ludlow follows him to a convenience store to beat him up. But Washington is executed in the store in an apparent gangland hit with heavy fire by two gangbangers under the pretense of a robbery. Though Ludlow is innocent and the two were working together to fight back, the surveillance video of the shootout shows him to have accidentally shot Washington while trying to protect him with his .38 revolver.

The DNA of two criminals known as Fremont and Coates is found at the scene, as well as a large amount of cash in Washington's possession. It is assumed that Washington himself was corrupt, despite his seemingly changed attitude, and that he had been stealing drugs from the department's evidence room and selling them to Fremont and Coates. Ludlow teams up with Detective Paul "Disco" Diskant, who has been assigned to the case to join him in his personal investigation.

Their search for the two involves some tough interrogation of a Latino gang member named Quiks, a Crips gang member named Grill and a drug addict/dealer named Winston "Scribble" that eventually leads them to a house in the hills where they discover the bodies of the real Fremont and Coates buried in a shallow grave. The condition of the bodies makes it apparent that they were killed well before Washington's murder.

Ludlow and Disco, posing as dirty cops who are willing to take over Washington's supposed activity of stealing and selling drugs, are able to set up a meeting through Scribble with two criminals masquerading as Fremont and Coates, who recognize Ludlow as the cop who was present at the convenience store robbery, prompting Ludlow to question who "Freemont and Coates" really are, and in turn Disco quickly states he recognizes the two, and he is shot and killed, along with Scribble.

Ludlow manages to kill both men and escapes back to his girlfriend's house, where a news report reveals the killers were undercover LASD deputies (Wander later states that the two had been in deep cover for so long that they "lost their fucking minds" and had become corrupt cops).

Ludlow retreats to where his girlfriend Grace Garcia is staying, and she confronts him. Shortly afterward, Ludlow is subdued by Detective Cosmo Santos and Detective Dante Demille — two fellow officers from his unit. Taking Ludlow with them, the two admit that they planted Fremont and Coates' DNA and the money at the scene of Washington's murder. This causes Ludlow to learn that Washington was surrendering their captain, Jack Wander, up to Biggs, as they were the ones who were stealing drugs from the department's evidence room.

The two cops take Ludlow out to the house where the two bodies of the real Fremont and Coates were found earlier, for execution. But Ludlow manages to kill both of them. He then heads to Washington's house to take care of their supervisor, Sergeant Mike Clady, who was about to kill Washington's widow. He captures Clady and places him in the trunk of his car.

Now aware of Wander's activities, Ludlow confronts him at his house and apprehends him after a brawl between them. He then discovers that Wander has incriminating evidence against almost all the officers in the department, along with the judges, council members and politicians. Wander planned to use the information to become LAPD chief and eventually Los Angeles mayor. Wander, asserting that he is Ludlow's best friend and mentor, attempts to buy off his silence by bribing him with a large amount of stolen money and incriminating documents — which Ludlow had uncovered from the wall moments ago. But Ludlow refuses and executes Wander.

Soon afterward, Captain Biggs and Sergeant Green arrive at the scene. Biggs reveals to Ludlow that they used him to bring down Wander and get access to his files by opening his eyes to the real corruption going on within his unit. As he leaves, Biggs tells Ludlow that the department does need him.



In 2004, it was announced that Spike Lee would be directing the film for a 2005 release. [3] In 2005, it was announced that Oliver Stone was in talks to direct the film. [4] However, Stone later denied this. [5] Training Day screenwriter David Ayer took over the project.

On February 5, 2008, it was announced that Fox Searchlight Pictures changed the film's title from The Night Watchman to Street Kings. [6]


Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes 36% of 152 reviews of the film are positive with average rating of 5.11/10. The site's consensus reads, "Street Kings contains formulaic violence but no shred of intelligence." [7] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 55 out of 100 based on 28 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". [8]

Box office

In its opening weekend, the film grossed $12.5 million from 2,467 theaters, finishing second at the box office. It went on to gross $26.4 million domestically and $39.2 million internationally for a total of $65.6 million. [9]

Home media

The DVD was released on August 19, 2008, as a single-disc offering with director commentary, and 2-disc special-edition set with numerous documentaries, interviews and a digital copy of the film. It is also available on Blu-ray disc with all the special features of the 2-disc DVD version. By January 2009, the film had made $14.6 million from DVD sales. [2]


The film is followed by a sequel, Street Kings 2: Motor City , released direct-to-video in 2011. Other than sharing an actor playing two different parts, the films are unrelated.

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  2. 1 2 "Street Kings (2008) - Financial Information". Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  3. "The Night Watchman Movie - Keanu Reeves to Star in The Night Watchman (Street Kings)". 2004-11-16. Archived from the original on 2011-06-07. Retrieved 2012-05-22.
  4. "The Night Watchman Movie - Oliver Stone May Direct The Night Watchman (Street Kings)". 2005-04-25. Archived from the original on 2011-06-07. Retrieved 2012-05-22.
  5. var authorId = "" by IGN FilmForce. "IGN: Stone Denies Night Watchman". Retrieved 2012-05-22.
  6. "The Night Watchman Retitled to Street Kings". 2008-02-05. Retrieved 2012-05-22.
  7. "Street Kings". Rotten Tomatoes . Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  8. "Street Kings (2008): Reviews". Metacritic . Retrieved 2014-10-25.
  9. "Street Kings (2008) - Weekend Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo . IMDB. Retrieved 2008-08-01.