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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

STREETS OF BLOOD -- DVD review by porfle

"Are we even cops anymore?"
"We're past that, brother."

Val Kilmer's character, Det. Andy Devereaux, is referring to the fact that he and his fellow cops in STREETS OF BLOOD (2009) have ventured far beyond the bounds of acceptable police procedure in their quest to stem the rising tide of drug-related crime in the hurricane-ravaged Big Easy. But seeing that Kilmer, Sharon Stone, and Michael Biehn are appearing in this tacky, low-grade potboiler, the question he's answering might as well have been "Are we even movie stars anymore?"

Somehow, though, once I got past the possibility that this was going to be a classy, top-notch movie and lowered my expectations accordingly, I actually started to enjoy it. It's fast-moving, action-packed, and rather colorful in its depiction of the dark underbelly of New Orleans, with plenty of sleazy sex and violence to give it that neo-grindhouse appeal. Big names aside, it's not all that different from the cheap, direct-to-video action flicks I used to rent from hole-in-the-wall video stores back in the 80s.

Val Kilmer is an actor I like in just about anything, so I cut him some slack here even though he isn't all that successful at making me think he's from anywhere near Louisiana. As Andy Devereaux, a hardboiled narc trying to live up to his hero-cop father's legacy, he's a true blue cop even though he'll bend the hell out of the rules to make a bust. Curtis "Fifty Cent" Jackson plays his partner, Stan, a family man having trouble making ends meet and feeling the temptation to pocket some of the stacks of drug money they come across. Jackson seems more comfortable playing gangstas than cops, but he does a pretty good job here even though he could still use a few more acting lessons.

Andy and Stan often butt heads with Pepe (Jose Pablo Cantillo) and Barney (Brian Presley), two really out-of-control cops who like to kill bad guys, take their cash, do their drugs, and screw their girlfriends. But the two disparate duos find themselves working together when FBI agent Brown (Michael Biehn) launches an investigation that threatens to bring them all down just as they're starting to close in on the biggest drug gang in the city, the Latin Kings, run by a stone cold killer named Chamorro (Luis Rolon).

While all this is going on, a police psychologist named Nina (Sharon Stone) is conducting interviews with the main cops in order to find out why they have such a penchant for extreme violence, including Andy's four lethal shootings in three years ("I'm a good shot," he tells her). Stone comes off like a cross between Daisy Duke on 'ludes and a slow-drawlin' Mae West, with one of the worst southern accents in film history--I live about sixty miles from where this was filmed, and I don't think I've ever met anyone who talks like her. What, did she base her entire performance on a "Deputy Dawg" cartoon she saw when she was a kid? Anyway, she's just plain awful here, but it's kinda funny so that might actually be a plus.

The action scenes are somewhat artlessly staged, the photography looks like the cameramen were hopping around barefoot on a hot sidewalk, and the editing is less than exquisite. Those minor quibbles aside, however, the movie still manages to be exciting and fun to watch. Some scenes even generate a certain raw power, such as Kilmer's blow-up during an interrogation scene with Biehn and a trigger-happy exchange between Pepe and Barney and a pimpin' lowlife named Ray Delacroix (Davi Jay) who turns out to be working with the DEA. Several of the snappy dialogue scenes crackle with tension. Jose Pablo Cantillo is a standout as Pepe, and Biehn, as usual, turns in a solid performance. The post-Katrina flood sequence is atmospheric, while good use is made of locations in and around the city of Shreveport.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is bonus-less except for the film's trailer and English subtitles for the hard-of-hearing. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image and Dolby Surround 5.1 are good.

Technically, STREETS OF BLOOD is a pretty slapdash affair, but that didn't keep me from enjoying it. I even watched it again and liked it better the second time because I knew what to expect and what not to expect. Even when the surprise ending was entirely unbelievable, I just accepted it as part of the film's cheapo charm. And when it was over, I almost felt like I needed to rewind the tape, pop it out of the VCR, and get it back to the mom-and-pop video store where I rented it in time to avoid a late fee. After dubbing a copy, of course.

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