The first 30 minutes of Street Kings seems like the best cop movie since Training Day. Keanu Reeves plays a hard edged badass who gets the job done, because that's what it really takes, not these nice cops who use nice language. He's realistically and cleverly racist, and takes a beating. He handles the moral police with appropriate sarcasm, making the point that we need this guy, just like we need Vic Mackey.
Review: Street Kings
Of course, then he's got to go all conscientious. It's fine if it's a case of boss's orders, but it's not his preferred way. Then you've got somebody good at doing something he doesn't really like. But this is just another dirty cop growing a conscience movie, and then it starts to play as such.
It gets very procedural and characters just start listing their own and each other's backstories. This happened because of that and this wasn't exactly what you thought it was. Whatever, we know they can follow leads and solve crimes. There are no real surprises, just the same twists as before, but it gets there fine. Ultimately, it still just ends with the bad guys explaining the whole conspiracy when they think they've won.
Even the story of a true accident catching the dirty cop up when he got away with all the other stuff would have been cool, but they just use it as an excuse to have random conversations about morality. They are real issues, but we got it. They don't need to explain it.
The action is realistic enough. It's not Lethal Weapon, that's for sure, but there is enough edge of style to keep it thrilling. It's better in the beginning than as it drags on, but even a foot chase shot with handheld cameras ends with a big capper.
You do want to see the best cop ever blast all the bad guys. That's a good movie. It's just so much less interesting when he starts trying to do the right thing. The film makes the point that this is the only way to really save people from evil, so it can't very well expect us to spend the next 80 minutes watching him play by the rules.