That's the general impression I had after watching Street Kings last night, which I am probably going to spoil the ending for in the course of this discussion, if you care. Well, after watching most of it. I started to get annoyed with Tom Ludlow's (Keanu Reeves) self-destructive and rude behavior towards that detective Diskant and switched over the watch the early stages of Nicholas Angel's assault on Sandford in Hot Fuzz. I don't regret that decision, for the record. I came back in time to see Keanu and they detective going to meet with the two guys responsible for killing Keanu's once-upon-a-time partner.
Watching the movie felt like watching a weak episode of The Shield that had been stretched to two hours. Maybe that was just the presence of Forrest Whitaker. Certainly, Keanu's character isn't nearly as good at avoiding culpability for legally questionable shit he pulled as Vic Mackey was, not without help from above anyway. There's a scene where Keanu turns to Interal Affairs' Captain Biggs and launches into this spiel about how, if they bust him for doing illegal stuff, who's going to pick up the needles and baby parts, Biggs? No, Biggs and the other company men need "monsters" like Ludlow. Hearing it, I couldn't shake the sense I'd heard that speech verbatim, somewhere else. I'm certain there have been variations of it in any number of movies and TV shows about cops who bend the rules to do the job, but this really felt like it was straight taken from something else to me.
I found the ending generally unsatisfying. While Ludlow isn't as dirty as nearly everyone around him, he did do all sorts of questionable things, but he's essentially told that's OK, he helped out a lot of powerful people by doing those things, exactly as they'd hoped, and so he can go right on being a cop. Nothing really changed. Ludlow helps bring down a dirty commander who was reaching every higher levels of power based on the dirt he had on those powerful people. But all he's really done is ensure those powerful people - who did, we should remember, do all those legally or morally questionable things that were being held over their heads - remain in their seats of power. And all his evidence planting, and the fact he was planning to beat up his former partner when said partner was killed, and that he dragged a detective who probably was relatively honest into his world and got him killed, that's all under the rug, pat on the head, go on doing what you're doing as the sun rises over the hills on a beautiful day in southern California. I don't know that he's learned anything, or that he'll change at all.
It would be like a movie about a man and his dog, where we're shown a man angered that his dog constantly does its business inside the house, when it's supposed to go outside. Then, at the end, the dog finds its way into the Evil Neighbor's house, drops a load on their priceless Persian rug*, and now the man pats his dog on the head and tells it "Good boy". What's the dog going to learn from that? Nothing. I think Ludlow needed to take more of a hit for his actions than he did**. They were investigating him when he was charging into the place where the kidnapped girls were being kept, shooting everyone who wasn't caged, then planting evidence and falsifying his report, so clearly those activities were wrong then. So why is it wrong to do that to regular criminals, but OK with dirty cops? They're criminals too.
* Which, if I may steal a sin of one of the Mooby executives in Dogma, they probably purchased with money they saved dumping their mom in a crappy old folks' home, so we know they're really rotten.
** This is my issue with the series finale of The Shield, based on what I've read about it, since I haven't seen it yet. I get the impression Vic squirmed his way out of jail time that was rightfully his. He started the series killing a cop on his own team to save his ass, and he ends it selling Ronnie up the river for shit he (Vic) did, again to save his own ass. I would have personally liked to see Vic die, saving (probably inadvertently) another cop's life. Preferably Billings or that one young girl cop, the incompetent one? It balances things a little, karmically, from Vic killing a cop, and we get the dirty cop that was fairly effective dying to save, relatively clean cops that are basically useless. Maybe I'd like ti more if/when I actually watched it, but those are my current feelings.