Sunday, July 26, 2015

Street Crimes

Though one suspects ninety minutes of Character Actor Hall of Famers Dennis Farina (CRIME STORY) and Max Gail (BARNEY MILLER) sitting around shooting the breeze would be equally entertaining, STREET CRIMES is an entertaining crime drama with a heart.

Written and directed by Stephen Smoke, who had previously penned LIVING TO DIE for PM Entertainment, this is one of those action movies where every low-level street punk in L.A. is proficient in kickboxing. Luckily, so is ridiculously young-looking rookie cop Michael Worth (U.S. SEALS II), who gets razzed by fellow detectives Joe Banks and Gail for using his fists and feet instead of his gun.

Teamed with veteran Farina, who eats in almost every scene, Worth cleans up the streets by inviting the gangbangers to the gym for organized, refereed kickboxing matches with policemen. And it works. Everyone is having a good time beating everyone up, except druglord Gerardo (James T. Morris), whose business is suffering. Worth is as green as an actor as his character is as a cop, and Patricia Zehentmayr as his blind girlfriend is even worse, but the charismatic Farina (in ubiquitous Chicago Bears cap) is wonderful enough for all three (Dennis staring down a pedophile is worth a rental on its own). Smoke tries to build repartee among the cops, but it’s really Farina and Gail who make it work instead of Smoke’s clumsy dialogue.

Although STREET CRIMES has its share of action scenes, it’s as much social drama as crime drama. Smoke seems to care about people and using his little direct-to-video movie to make points and teach his audience something without getting preachy (Gail wears a D.A.R.E. T-shirt, for instance). Of course, Smoke leans on more than a few action-movie cliches — it would be hard not to at this budget level — but they play with energy and without cynicism. Worth’s first three features were kickboxing flicks for PM, but I’m unsure whether STREET CRIMES was made before FINAL IMPACT (also with Smoke) and TO BE THE BEST.

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