Ever since his strong performances in 'The Doors,' 'Heat,' and even 'Batman Forever,' I've been strangely drawn to Val Kilmer's works. It's safe to say that I've been disappointed far more often than I've been rewarded, with uninspired, borderline ridiculous performances in 'The Island of Dr. Moreau,' 'Wonderland,' 'Mindhunters,' and 'Alexander' leaving an awful taste in my mouth. Then, he teases me again with his talents in the vastly underrated 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.' I just never know what to expect from him!
As I loaded this disc and pressed play, I wondered to myself, "What's it going to be from Mr. Kilmer in his latest Direct to video fare, 'Streets of Blood?' Am I going to regret my time spent watching the film, or go away wondering how such a performance could have been so thoroughly ignored?"
Ironically, both. I wish I could have each and every one of the last 95 minutes of my life back, and wonder how such an absolutely awful acting job could warrant so little attention! He isn't the only bad element in 'Streets of Blood,' though, as nearly every other performance is horrid, as are the story and direction.
Here's the story: New Orleans is a mess six months after Hurricane Katrina has destroyed the city. Gangs rule the streets, guns looted from stores during the aftermath are being used in one violent crime after another, and cops seem to be in on the action. Narcotics officer Andy Deveraux (Kilmer) and new partner Stan Green (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson) are trying to keep the streets clean, but when they're dirty themselves, it isn't easy. When the FBI begins an investigation of the dirty cops, they have no choice but to play by the rules. Can therapist Nina Ferraro (Sharon Stone) convince them to be good cops and play by the rules, or will base instincts prevail?
Wow. Just wow. It takes a special kind of film to make me draw parallels to 'Bring it On: Fight to the Finish,' but 'Streets of Blood' does it. Racial stereotypes are overblown, including perhaps one of the most ridiculous killings ever caught on film, with a hispanic gangster shot in his junk, screaming out "Ayyyy! Mi Juevos!!!" before cussing in Spanish and getting taken down by a body shot. Nearly every black character in the film is a criminal of one sort or another, except for Police Chief Friendly. Nearly every cop shown is dirty, in one fashion or another. Gang dens are full of crack whores, blow, sexual activity, and violent video games, to the point that their leaders should be nicknamed Caligula instead of Tiny or Pooh Bear or whatever. One or two men with single guns can take out entire rooms full of gun toting baddies. Plot often gets discarded for one cliche after another, creating a film with no real coherency, just one sequence after another, jumbled together and called a film.
Overacting by 50 Cent/Jackson murders quite a few sequences, while bad accents utterly maim others. It's apparent that no actor went through gun training for the film, as proper methods for gun handling and shooting are completely unknown. Kilmer's stances were so amateur one would have to wonder if he'd ever fired or held a gun of any sort in real life, but we all know better.
To sum it up, 'Streets of Blood' is dirtier than any dirty cop it attempts to portray. Caricatures replace characters, and that doesn't make for a deep or enthralling viewing. The film feels like a dirty rip off of 'Training Day,' plain and simple. There is no redeeming value to be found, not even unintentional comedy.
Anchor Bay/Starz drops 'Streets of Blood' on Blu-ray with a VC-1 1080p encode at 1.78:1. By dropped, I mean unceremoniously plopped, lobbed, and/or discarded.
My goodness, if I ever needed an example to show a reviewer signs of a problematic transfer, this Blu-ray would be at the top of the list. Delineation and black levels are on par with the worst I've seen on the format. If anything halfway dark gets near a shadow, it gets swallowed whole. This is no exaggeration.
The picture is a bit uneven, with overblown day shots accompanying gritty night sequences with increased grain level and a decreased amount of visible detail. Aliasing? You betcha. In any scene in the PD, it's evident, from the opening scenes with Kilmer's black leather jacket having problems with straight stitching (not due to it being a knockoff), to 50's plaid shirt dancing, and the wooden panels behind them both pulsing and shimmering like they're at a rave, on top of some jagged as hell motions. It's just Ugly (with a capital U).
Funnily enough, the Katrina clips in the opening credits weren't bad quality, save for a shot or two, and had a higher visual quality than the film itself. The jerky camera doesn't help one focus on detail, occasionally creating blurs. Grass in the park at night can become indistinct, a green and brown blur, while skin tones are off in general, with Kilmer and Stone looking excessively red and orange, respectively.
There is a bright side to this dark cloud, no matter how small it may be, and that's the interior shots in the PD, when detail can be absolutely superb, from single white hairs in Kilmer's goatee, to pores galore on every face. These sequences are upsetting, though, as I'd rather not be teased, then slapped in the face.
'Streets of Blood' defaults to a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 (described as Dolby Surround in the menu) track, but an Uncompressed Linear PCM 5.1 mix is available to try to salvage some respect for this release.
The dialogue is a recipe for disaster. First, it's full of stereotypical street slang usage by any gang member. Then, add a pinch of Kilmer and Stone doing their "best" to impersonate southerners, to no success. Mix in a bit of garbled dialogue that sometimes drops in volume, creating a difficult to hear film, and you've got 'Streets of Blood.'
Surround presence is good, but with a hint of failure. There is the occasional good use of localized effects that don't feel exaggerated or forced in the least, but they're overshadowed by some bits of forced motion. For example, a piece of glass is hit from a counter, registering in the front channel, and seconds later, with no discrete movement to the right rear, a weak shatter can be heard that was way off timing wise.
Bass levels are probably the highlight of this track, with solid thumps in gunfire, and an even level in the score, though, sadly, they too come at a price, sometimes creating some of the dialogue distinction issues.
How's this for an extra: with every movement or selection from the menu, you are treated to gun sounds, from clicking to firing. This menu means business! Since the DVD was barebones all of the extras are technically high def exclusives.
'Streets of Blood' was released on DVD a few months before it bowed on Blu-ray, leading me to wonder over the logic on the release of this Blu-ray. Demand isn't high, word of mouth (and nearly every review) is terrible, and what few people wanted to see the film probably already rented the DVD. A triumvirate of lackluster performances coupled with poor and somewhat poor video and audio (respectively), as well as shallow extras, create the best Blu-ray ever made, so good you'll want to tattoo the box art on your forehead. It's no coincidence the film's initials spell out S.O.B... Buy this disc, and you'll soon be muttering that to yourself.