Cost: £1.96 (Play.com)
Tag-line: Confront violence with violence
Sample dialogue: “The Big Easy ain’t so easy any more…”
OK, so… New Orleans. Long known as a city of great music, great food and a lot of sleaze, it has come to be dominated (or haunted) both in reality and in pop culture by the shadow of Hurricane Katrina. Any movie or TV show set in New Orleans today will inevitably define itself as being set in New Orleans “post-Katrina”. Some projects have tried to make the setting and the aftermath of the event the whole point of their existence. Most high-profile is probably Treme, the HBO show from The Wire creators which I think is generally well-regarded, though I personally couldn’t get on board with it. Then there was the cop show K-Ville, a failure which was cancelled pretty quickly. Much lesser known is the 2009 action drama Streets of Blood, which again aimed to address the social chaos and lawlessness that ran rife in post-Katrina New Orleans, but planned to get the job done in just 91 minutes.
I’m not going to keep you in suspense here. It fails. It fails as an action movie. It fails as a drama. It fails as an action-drama, but it most definitely fails as a social commentary piece, if that’s even what it originally set out to be. The opening credits – played out between helicopter shots of the flooded streets and news footage of the chaos, scored to clips of speeches from George Bush – certainly make it seem like the intention.
Stick with it to the end, though, and you’ll realise this is just another low rent dirty cop double-cross flick, only more miserable, cos everyone’s all disgusted all the time by what they and their city have become.
Our protagonist here is narcotics detective Val Kilmer, first seen wading through waist-deep waters in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane to reach the bloated body of his murdered partner. The back of the DVD case will tell you he “suspects foul play and launches a full investigation”, but he doesn’t. Apparently they can say whatever they like on the back of DVD covers. Kilmer immediately forgets all about his dead partner and recruits himself a new one in the form of crap rapper-turned-crap-actor Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson.
Together the pair set about taking down the gangs of looters, drug addicts and violent psychopaths roaming the flooded streets and abandoned buildings. Except they don’t. We almost immediately cut to SIX MONTHS LATER (boo!) by which time the flood waters have receded and the only clue to anyone watching that we’re even in New Orleans are the God-awful southern accents attempted by non-southerners like Kilmer and Sharon Stone.
Oh yeah. Sharon Stone’s in this too, playing the police psychiatrist tasked with evaluating whether any of the men employed as detectives in the town are in any way capable of doing their jobs without stealing, lying, taking drugs, torturing suspects, having sex with witnesses and plain old murdering unarmed suspects and undercover DEA agents. And she is TERRIBLE at her job. Despite the fact every cop she interviews is obviously dirty as sin, she turns a blind eye to it and even works to protect them when an FBI investigation into dirty cops turns its attention on them.
So despite the fact she achieves nothing, every so often the film’s actual plot is interrupted for scenes in which Stone interviews the four (apparently the ONLY four) narcotics detectives tasked with preventing an all-out gang war. These scenes are PAINFUL, don’t advance the plot and don’t offer any insight into any of the characters, since they all just stone-wall Stone (ha!) anyway. Everyone just rolls their eyes at each other all sarcastic and cynical, saying nothing of any merit for what seems like hours. The worst are the scenes between Kilmer and Stone, when each tries to out-drawl the other, like they’re in competition with each other to see how slowly they can speak a sentence.
I’m not going to lay into Val Kilmer too much. I actually like him as an actor. I know a lot of people don’t, for whatever reasons, but give him the right material and he can still give a great performance. This is not one of those. He at least looks the part, I think. He’s not in the same kind of shape he used to be back in the day, but it at least looks like he’s given up on that competition for Hollywood’s Widest Face. But in practice he makes for about as convincing a New Orleans cop as Steven Seagal: Lawman, with an indecipherable accent to boot (seriously, I had to switch on the subtitles).
So, OK, Val Kilmer pretty much sucks in this. Sharon Stone is worse. But the crown for worst actor in the entire film is Fiddy Cent. I know he’s had a lot of criticism in the past for his work in That One Movie He Did Where He Pretty Much Played Himself Only Not Really and That Other Thing He Was In That Time but I never saw any of those, so I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Would you believe it though, he really is a terrible actor. Just awful. Mumbly, blank-faced, monotone, just… just awful. It doesn’t help that they’ve handed him most of the worst lines in the script, mostly delivered in one-on-ones with Sharon Stone (acting master-class!) where he tells her “I don’t even know what the truth is any more,” or “I don’t even know what clean is any more,” or “I don’t even know what a Large Hadron Collider is any more…”
So, something something gang war, something something dirty cops, something something DEA, something something mole in the department, oh WHO CARES? I was planning on writing a paragraph or two about the FBI investigation led by Michael Biehn, the film’s only saving grace, if it has one, but I can’t be bothered. I’m too pissed off now after writing about everything else that’s wrong with this piece of crap.
And sure, y’know what? Biehn does a good job, coming out of this clean even when no-one else can, but I’m not going to big him up because I don’t want people purchasing Streets of Blood and sitting through all the turgid scenes of Val Kilmer moralising and Sharon Stone being shit at psychiatry just for his performance, which is all too brief, anyway.
In short, this film could have had a lot going for it, but it blows. If you want to see a good film about dirty cops and drug dealers running rings around each other in post-Katrina New Orleans, look up Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. It has all the fun, craziness and local colour Streets of Blood doesn’t, and it even has Val Kilmer and another rapper-turned-actor in Xzibit (he’s much better than Fiddy). Everyone wins!
Good movie, bad movie or beer movie: Bad movie