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 DVD 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.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1 aspect ratio), the "Blood" DVD is an ugly mess. The HD photography keeps the action in low-light situations, which renders the image quality a muddy puddle with little to no detail available. Daylight vistas from the New Orleans footage fares better, but still suffers from a highly contrasted look.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital sound mix on the DVD showcases a nice gunfire pop during sequences of tension, allowing for a workable submersion in the action. Gangsta ephemera allows for a low-end kick. Dialogue is a mixed bag, with much of the slang and accents seemingly merging to form its own language. This feels like more of a problem with the film itself than the mix.
English SDH subtitles are included (you'll need them).
Not surprisingly, none.
To cover the lack of dramatic thunder, Winkler pours on the Katrina misery with disingenuous, possibly exploitative concentration. The film is steeped with local culture, even concluding with a shoot-out in a Mardi Gras parade float warehouse (the producers of "Hard Target" should call their lawyers), but 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.