Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) is woken in the early evening by his alarm clock and drags himself out of bed, vomits, gets washed, dressed and makes sure he has his gun with him before heading out into the dusk. He meets with a gang of Koreans who wish to buy an machine gun, but they're not too pleased with what he has on offer, as this weapon looks like it was last fired in World War II. Nevertheless, after an exchange of racial insults the Koreans beat up Ludlow and steal his car - but this was exactly what he wanted to happen...
No, he's not a masochist, he's a police detective on the trail of the fourteen-year-old twins the Koreans have kidnapped, and when he tracks them down he takes a cavalier attitude to rounding up the miscreants in that he breaks down their door and begins blasting away with his gun. Once they're all dead, he arranges the crime scene to look as if they fired first, and frees the girls. Do you get the idea yet? That's right, Keanu was playing a maverick cop who played by his own rules and was not afraid to hurt the evildoers if it meant the innocent would be saved.
We have been here before, this in spite of a script by James Ellroy who did so much to revolutionise the crime story in book form, but that screenplay had been around since the nineties and had been subject to a spot of brushing up by other hands, which may explain why what may well have been a movie that could have broken the mould in its genre ended up pretty much the sort of thing that the audience could have probably written themselves, such was its hackneyed nature. It was a pity, but more proof that television in the early 21st Century was the place where police procedurals and their innovations lay.
Not helping was that Reeves was intended to be playing the sort of character who defined the anti-hero, a hard drinking, embittered bad cop, but in spite of his strenuous efforts to appear the tough guy in the early stages, the fact that by the final scene he's the nice guy we always expect Keanu to be should tell you how sucessful that casting against type was. Surrounding him was a group of character thesps who tended to overact in the face of running through a plot that offered them no chance of expression other than shouting, swearing, or shooting, and none of that made for essential watching.
That plot was not about the kidnapping, but police corruption that Ludlow seems to be part of initially, as his ex-partner (Terry Crews) is trying to bring him to the attention of Internal Affairs man Captain Biggs (Hugh Laurie doing his best drawl), but there's more to this than meets the eye. As Ludlow is demoted to an office job when the heat gets turned up under him, his old unit full of bluff coves who laugh their way to tough guy attitudes begin to appear less moral than he is, as he falls in with good cop Diskant (Chris Evans) to team up and get to the bottom of who is behind a murder on the force. With everyone acting their socks off, the result is more histrionic than convincing, as if turning everything up to levels of extreme macho was the way to tackle such material. With Forest Whitaker and Reeves ending the movie on a contest to see who can yell the loudest, subtlety wasn't the strong point here, but maybe it should have been. Music by Graeme Revell.