Mix up a little bit of "L.A. Confidential," a dash of "Serpico" and just a hint of "The French Connection," and you'd probably get a pretty good cop movie. But when perfecting your recipe, don't forget the number-one ingredient, insisted the master chefs behind "Street Kings."
"Police corruption," said co-star Forest Whitaker.
"People in power abusing it," Chris Evans echoed.
"Dirty cops," laughed Common.
"You gotta have some crime, you've gotta have some betrayal, you've gotta have some double-crosses, some sense of right and wrong. You've gotta have some victims," Keanu Reeves explained. "And a couple of swear words!"
Directed by "Training Day" scribe David Ayers and based on a story by James Ellroy, "Street Kings" certainly has all of the above in spades — from rotten cops to F-bombs. But the real secret? We didn't once have to throw a bad guy into our pot of ingredients.
That's because in the best cop movies, they go by another name, said Whitaker: hero.
"These characters in the [good cop] movies are at a crossroads, they need to be a little tortured, a little torn. Maybe they're torn because of something that they've done, something that's happened, maybe they go into conflict about that. Maybe it makes them drink because they shot the wrong person or saw something they don't want to remember," Whitaker explained of the tradition of bad cops/ good cops in cinema. "That's a kind of torment that makes a movie work."
"You meet people who appear to be good guys and then all of a sudden they are bad guys, and you got the lead character who you don't know if he's dirty or not," added Cedric the Entertainer.
In fact, so pervasive is the corruption story line in most cop movies, one gets the very real impression there aren't enough good cops to go around. Having portrayed morally ambiguous officers, do the stars of "Street Kings" think it's a major problem in the system?
"It's just if you take a fresh barrel of water and you drop something rotten in it, the whole barrel seems to be rotten because you added a cup of something that tainted it," Whitaker said. "They have to be in the minority, not the majority."
"I don't think of it as a sort of indictment of the whole system. I don't," Hugh Laurie argued. "I think it's an examination of individuals and bad decisions that they make morally and practically — not of a whole culture.
"I think once we decide that the system is rotten, that everybody's rotten, there is no hope for any of us."
"Street Kings" adds another nail to the coffin when it opens Friday.
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