Street Kings (2008) - Plot Summary Poster



Showing all 3 items
Jump to:


  • An undercover cop, disillusioned by the death of his wife, is implicated in the murder of an officer and must struggle to clear himself.

  • LAPD detective Tom Ludlow is a ruthlessly efficient, unorthodox undercover cop. Captain Jack Wander always covers for Ludlow, as do even his somewhat jealous colleagues. After technically excessive violence against a vicious Korean gang during the liberation of kidnapped child sex slaves, Ludlow becomes the target of hotshot Internal Affairs captain James Biggs, who feels passed over after Wander's promotion to chief. Ludlow's ex-patrol partner, Terrence Washington, sides with IA but is killed during a shop robbery in Ludlow's presence. Ludlow works his way through the twisted rungs of the police and the deadly streets of Los Angeles for answers that lead to more and more questions.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) is a disillusioned L.A. Police Officer, rarely playing by the rules and haunted by the death of his wife. The movie opens with Tom Ludlow waking up, having been drinking the night before. Working undercover, he meets with two Korean gangsters in a parking lot, who are looking to buy a machine gun from him. After a vicious beatdown, the Koreans then proceed to steal Tom's car. Locating his car at the Korean's hideout, Tom storms in and kills all the people inside, even an unarmed man on the toilet, and he then locates two missing children who have been imprisoned at the house. Using a pair of rubber gloves, he then proceeds to cover up what really happened.

    In the next scene, Ludlow is surrounded by police at the scene of the crime. While the other officers in his unit congratulate him, he is confronted by his former partner, Terrence Washington (Terry Crews). Apparently, all of the cops in Ludlow's unit, including their captain, Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker), bend and break the rules of conduct on a regular basis. Washington no longer approves of the corruption and deception of the unit and he has gone straight. Wander congratulates Ludlow, and then takes him to the hospital to tend to a wound he got in the gunfight with the Koreans.

    At the hospital, Ludlow waits for a particular nurse who turns out to be his girlfriend, Grace Garcia (Martha Higareda). While he is waiting, a fawning patient in the next space in the ER recognizes Ludlow and is eager to hear how he solved the crime involving the Koreans. Before Ludlow says anything, another policeman walks up to the fawning patient, and reveals the patient to actually be James Biggs (Hugh Laurie) , Captain of Internal Affairs. Biggs gives Ludlow his card and encourages Ludlow to work with him, but Ludlow plainly despises Biggs.

    At a department party, Ludlow hears that Washington's report inspired Biggs to investigate Ludlow. Upset at Washington for "snitching", Ludlow follows him to a convenience store to confront him and beat him up. However, before entering the store, Ludlow sees two masked men drive into the parking lot. He tries to convince Washington that a robbery is about to occur, but Washington doesn't believe him. The two men enter with machine guns and execute Washington. One shot from Ludlow's gun also hits Washington, although it is not clear if this is intentional. Wander comes to investigate the crime, and he encourages Ludlow to steal the store's security video disk which might implicate Ludlow in the murder of Washington.

    DNA of two criminals known as Fremont and Coates is found at the scene, as well as drugs in Washington's car. It is assumed that Washington himself was corrupt, despite his seemingly changed attitude, and that he was stealing drugs from the department's evidence room and selling them to Fremont and Coates, who killed him over a bad deal.

    Ludlow convinces Detective Paul "Disco" Diskant (Chris Evans) to enthusiastically pursue the case. Their search for the shooters involves some tough interrogation of other known criminals, which eventually leads them to a house in the hills where they discover the bodies of the real Fremont and Coates buried in a shallow grave. The decomposition of the bodies is so severe that it becomes apparent that they were killed well before Washington's murder.

    Ludlow and Disco, posing as corrupt cops who are willing to take over Washington's activity of stealing and selling drugs, set up a meeting with the two criminals masquerading as Fremont and Coates who they believe killed Washington. Ludlow tries to convince Disco to stay away, but ultimately takes him to the meeting. The meeting goes bad when the criminals recognize Ludlow from the convenience store and then realize that he and Disco are off-duty and seeking revenge. Disco also realizes that he recognizes the two criminals, but before he can reveal their true identities, one of the impostors, Coates (Common), shoots and kills Disco. A gunfight follows, and Ludlow kills both Fremont and Coates and escapes back to his girlfriend, Grace's, house. There a TV news report reveals the dead "criminals" were actually undercover sheriff's deputies, and that Ludlow murdered them. Ludlow is mystified as to how the story, especially his participation, could be on television so quickly.

    Suddenly, Santos (Amaury Nolasco) and Demille (John Corbett), two fellow officers from his own unit, break into Grace's house and capture Ludlow. He thinks that they are driving him to the police station, when they turn the car in the opposite direction. Santos and Demille admit that they planted Fremont and Coates' DNA and the drugs in Washington's car at the scene of his murder, in order to prevent Washington from testifying against Wander (and not Ludlow) in Biggs's investigation. Ludlow realizes that Santos and Demille are going to now kill him, and he attacks the driver from the back seat of the car, causing it to crash, but he does not get away. The two cops take Ludlow out to the house where the two bodies were found earlier. They want some of his DNA, to plant at the crime scene, and then they will execute him. They taunt Ludlow, but he manages to crawl into some brush and ultimately kill them.

    Ludlow now heads to Washington's house, ancticipating that another member of Wander's unit, Mike Clady (Jay Mohr), will be there searching for the security disk he left there, and which would disclose the real circumstances of Washington murder. Clady is beating up Washington's widow, but Ludlow stops him, and throws him in the trunk of Ludlow's car.

    By now, Ludlow is pretty sure that he has been a pawn in a plan masterminded by Captain Wander. Ludlow goes to Wander's house to make sure that Wander really wanted to kill him. He asks Wander if he can "fix it", and encourages Wander to text Clady and get his help. In fact, Ludlow has Clady's phone, and he reads Wander's message on the phone, in which Wander has told Clady to come to his house and kill Ludlow. A struggle betwen Ludlow and Wander follows, and Ludlow ultimately handcuffs Wander to a railing. Wander then tells Ludlow to tear down a wall of Wander's house, disclosing a large amount of stolen money. Wander reveals that he also has incriminating evidence on just about everyone in the department, as well as judges and politicians. With so many people in Wander's pocket, he has been able to quickly move up the department ranks as well as bury his unit's corruption. Wander tells Ludlow that he will become chief and then mayor, and he tries to convince Ludlow that he is his friend and that all the cash is for the benefit of Wander's unit. Ludlow tells Wander "You were my best friend," and then shoots him twice in the chest.

    We next see Ludlow out on the back porch of Wander's home when a plain-clothes policeman arrives and tells him to put down his gun. Internal Affairs Officer Biggs arrives behind the policeman, and he says that he came as soon as Ludlow called him. Biggs tells Ludlow that Biggs was using Ludlow to catch Wander and get access to Wander's documents and cash, by opening Ludlow's eyes to the real corruption going on within his unit. Biggs returns Ludlow's gun and handcuffs, saying "One day the chief will pass you in the hall and he will give you a nod and you will know why."

See also

Taglines | Synopsis | Plot Keywords | Parents Guide

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed