Street Kings 2: Motor City (Blu-Ray)

Crime.  Poverty.  Unemployment.  Urban decay.  We’ve all heard the stories about the awful misfortunes that have befallen Detroit, once one of America’s richest and most powerful cities, and now to that list we can add being used as the setting for one half-baked direct-to-DVD movie after another.  The original STREET KINGS was one of the surprise successes of 2008, wisely spending its low budget on a strong script (with input from the great crime novelist James Ellroy) and a powerhouse cast to tell a gritty crime story about narcotics detectives in a world of almost limitless corruption and violence.

Street Kings 2 Motor City

So here comes STREET KINGS 2: MOTOR CITY, a film with no ties to its predecessor except the cursory acknowledgment that Clifton Powell’s character used to live in L.A. – and he’s not even the main character.  That dubious honor belongs to Marty Kingston (Ray Liotta, working off some some bad karma) an edgy, violent narcotics detective (aren’t they all?) whose undercover team is ambushed and shot up at a deal gone bad.  Kingston’s partner died in the incident, and his idealistic new partner, Dan Sullivan (Shawn Hatosy), thinks the intense Kingston may have had something to do with the tragedy, and tries to bring the veteran detective down with the help of Internal Affairs.  Meanwhile, members of Kingston’s elite narcotics team are being killed off one by one.  Is it a spoiler to say that the  two rival partners will have to learn to work together to stop the killings and root out the real traitor?

Ray Liotta in Street Kings 2 Motor City

As you can see, this has literally nothing to do with the plot of the original STREET KINGS, so one minor plus is that you can rent MOTOR CITY with absolutely no foreknowledge. Of course, the flip side of that is that this generic story has been done elsewhere and better a thousand times before even once with Ray Liotta, in NARC!

Ray Liotta in Street Kings 2 Motor City

The pleasures of MOTOR CITY are pretty much what you’d expect: there’s graphic shooting violence, some obligatory nudity at a strip club, a lot of cursing and ritualistic cops-and-robbers dialogue.  It’s not awful, but it’s the sort of thing where five minutes after you’ve watched it you’re struggling to remember a single word that was said or a single thing that happened.  The cast turns in serviceable work, and Liotta, a great professional even in bad movies, really works his butt off to make Detective Kingston seem as dangerous as he is likeable.  Liotta has singlehandedly made B-movies fun before, as in the aforementioned NARC or NO ESCAPE, but he just can’t overcome the gravitational pull of a movie that doesn’t have any really particularly good reason to exist.

Shawn Hatosy in Street Kings 2 Motor City

One pleasant surprise is the skilled camerawork by director Chris Fisher; as a half-abandoned city, Detroit is easy and cheap to shoot in and Fisher takes full advantage of that to give us a series of stylish and even beautiful visuals abandoned downtown streets at night, the rotting facades of old courthouses and police stations, aerial panoramas of decayed grandeur.  As the director of the miserable S. DARKO, it’s tempting to make jokes about Fisher being doomed to create lame and unnecessary sequels to better movies, but I have to give credit where it’s due: he makes STREET KINGS 2: MOTOR CITY look like it cost a lot more than whatever its probably-tiny budget was.  That doesn’t mean you should pay more, though: this is strictly rental fare only.


Video: As I said above, STREET KINGS 2 is if nothing else a good-looking movie, and the 1.78:1 transfer ensures that a movie filmed largely in the dark and on digital cameras is clear and intelligible colors pop nicely and the blacks are rich and velvety.

Audio: The Dolby 5.1 audio track is well-done, with gunshots making nice sharp cracks in my rear speakers and the dialogue coming through clearly on the center channel.

“Murder Scene Deconstructions(12:09) A series of linked featurettes examining each of the scenes where Kingston’s men are killed by the mysterious hit men, focusing on props, car stunts, camera work and the movie trickery involved in concealing the killer’s identity.

“Creating a Convincing Cop Story(5:12) A standard puff piece making-of, heavy with clips from the movie we just saw.

“An Explosive Opening(4:58) Director Chris Fisher and his cameramen and props crew discuss the violent parking garage shootout that kicks off the movie.  They seem really enthusiastic about it but in the actual movie it’s a dark, cramped scene where it’s barely possible to tell what’s going on.  I wish the scene in their heads was the one that ended up on the disc; it sounds a lot more exciting.

“Motor City Setting(4:37) The director and producers talk about why they chose to set the movie in Detroit.  They mention a few things like having access to professional stunt drivers, but the bottom line is: it’s cheap.  I was completely surprised.

Deleted Scenes (2:19) Two very brief scenes that would have added nothing to the movie and don’t make much sense out of context.

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