I reviewed a Val Kilmer DTV actioner titled "Conspiracy" last year, and while I wasn't blown away by the quality, I was struck by the halfway decent pass at B-movie confidence, led by Kilmer's authoritative performance. Feeling in a gambling mood, I slipped "Streets of Blood" into my Blu-ray player expecting similar results. I was wrong. Way wrong. A kindergarten cop thriller encrusted with insufferable New Orleans location accents, "Streets of Blood" proves that it wasn't the script that convinced Kilmer to accept this role, but likely the Creole catering.
A cop on the edge in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Detective Andy Devereaux (Val Kilmer) is partnered up with rookie Stan Green (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson) to keep peace around the hellish neighborhoods of New Orleans. Battling accusations of unlawful behavior and nonstop mental probing (the cop psychologist is played by Sharon Stone), Devereaux and Green try to keep their noses clean while their fellow officers give in the madness of the city. Now, with an FBI agent (Michael Biehn) tracking their moves, the cops look to outwit their accusers while doling out street justice to even the score.
Hell, I'm not 100% sure what "Streets of Blood" was actually about. Between the procedural cop show mumbo jumbo, Kilmer and Stone's frightful Cajun accents, and the film's liberal layering of Ebonics, I found it nearly impossible to keep up with the story without the subtitles turned on. Even then, "Blood" is consumed with dropping every variation of the F-word at rapid-fire speed, making the dialogue that's actually comprehensible completely unwelcome.
It's not impossible to sense what director Charles Winkler (the distinguished mastermind behind "The Net 2.0") is aiming for with "Blood." He's constructing a gritty cop drama that observes blurred lines of morality and conscience, using the backdrop of a desolated city as a metaphor for the tattered characters. It's a contained thematic package from screenwriter Eugene Hess, who eagerly writes one-dimensional caricatures suited for low-budget filmmaking. The intent of "Blood" is obvious and time-tested, but the execution is dreadful.
To be fair, Winkler appears to be working with a budget roughly equal to the average third grader's lunch money allowance, but the filmmaking choices presented here are laughable. Armed with HD cameras, Winkler captures the action with an insistence on jittery, zoom-happy, clichéd cinematography to come across as edgy. The reality is the smeary, low-tech image reveals the film's non-budget at every turn, making Winkler's sprawling New Orleans wasteland appear amateurish and overtly reliant on stock footage. The camera also accentuates excruciating performance limitations from the usual suspects (Jackson has no business acting), with Stone and Kilmer looking as bored as can be. At least Biehn pushes himself to some degree of intensity, but the dead look in his eyes (this HD is a miracle!) is quite telling.
While shot with HD cameras, the VC-1 encoded image on "Blood" (1.78:1 aspect ratio) only really captures the true dimension of the cinematography during daylight sequences. Here colors are wonderful and detail is abundant. The major sore point for the BD is shadow detail, with nearly everything that retains dark qualities swallowed into indistinct blobs, hurting the often nocturnal aesthetic of the picture. It's a mixed bag, but the problems do tend to aggravate the film's severe shortcomings.
The PCM 5.1 mix here is aggressive with hip-hop soundtrack selections and booming shootouts, which bring encouraging punch to the experience. Dialogue is garbled (perhaps intentionally), but the BD does what it can to keep the effort clean and up front for listening pleasure. Surround environments are limited, though effective in flooded settings, adding a pleasing bit of splash to the soundscape. A 5.1 Dolby Surround mix is also included.
English SDH subtitles are included (you'll need them).
Delusional is a good word to describe the feature-length audio commentary from director Charles Winkler. Though he brands himself a rugged veteran of the industry, it's amazing to me that he can't recognize the rampant stupidity of this feature film. Winkler is very pleased with his work here, throwing praise to cast and crew for their efforts. While I did enjoy hearing about his experiences working with Stone (one tough cookie) and Kilmer, and how the film plays fast and loose with the New Orleans locations, the rest of the talk is cringingly shallow. Winkler refuses to comment on the picture's broad creative miscalculations, making the commentary a missed opportunity for invigorating honesty.
"Behind the Scenes" (9:01) is a standard BTS exploration, interviewing cast and crew on-set (always a bad sign) for their thoughts on artistic intent and production achievement. The only genuine moment here is a bit at the end, where Jackson, Kilmer, and Stone talk basketball fandom for a moment. The rest is banal promotion.
A Trailer has been included.
To cover the lack of dramatic thunder, Winkler pours on the Katrina misery with disingenuous, possibly exploitative concentration. The film is steeped in local culture, even concluding with a shoot-out in a Mardi Gras parade float warehouse (the producers of "Hard Target" should call their lawyers). Yet, remove this cultural thumbprint, and the material is nothing, absolutely nothing, but monotone police corruption scraps. Miserable junk food even basic cable would pass on.
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