Political correctness and unrealistic hopefulness inform “Street Knight,” a formulaic actioner that exploits, but doesn’t deal with, the timely issue of gang warfare in Los Angeles. Proficient production values and adherence to genre conventions may result in moderate success at the box office, a useful warm-up on the way to videoland.
Jeff Speakman stars as Jake, a former cop tormented by guilt over inadvertently causing the death of a young girl. Working as an auto mechanic in a business inherited from his father, Speakman is doing his personal penance.
Predictably, however, he is drawn back to the crime scene when a truce between two rival gangs, the Latin Lords and the Blades, is shattered by mysterious murders in both camps.
Scripter Richard Friedman shrewdly adds a new element to the familiar formula: A highly organized, para-military band of mostly white professional killers that sets the gangs against each other in order to divert police attention from their ruthless operations.
Otherwise, “Street Knight” obeys its genre imperatives with the expected number of hostages, violent deaths, stock characters and subplots.
Speakman embodies the flawed mythic hero, in the stoic male tradition, who needs to redeem himself. He falls for Rebecca (Jennifer Gatti), the attractive sister of Carlos (Richard Coca), an innocent and frightened Hispanic adolescent who goes missing after spotting one of the killers during some gang activity.
Masterminding a jewelry heist, the white criminals belong to movie gangsters of the old school — they look and sound like villains.
Their frightening band consists of corrupt but highly decorated ex-Los Angeles police officers who spent some time in jail. Headed by Franklin, a vengeful psychopath scarily played by Christopher Neame, their sole wish now is to see the city burn to ashes.
At the requisite happy ending, Speakman orchestrates a new gang truce and is invited to rejoin the police force. He also gets to pay homage to Arnold Schwarzenegger, when he delivers the latter’s immortal line, “Hasta la vista, baby.”
With the exception of one chase scene in Griffith Park, the film lacks elaborate set pieces, but it does contain some excellent mano-a-mano fights that allow Speakman, a fourth-degree black belt in Kenpo karate, to display his expertise.
As a new action star, Speakman, who made his debut in” The Perfect Weapon” ( 1991), doesn’t have the steely look and cool savvy of Steven Seagal or the sexy handsomeness of Jean-Claude Van Damme, though he may be a more natural performer than Van Damme.
Albert Magnoli’s direction is at times crude, but he handles the lurid material with verve and high-strung pace; his picture is never boring.
Tech contributions are solid in every department. The final showdown between Speakman and Neame’s pack at an abandoned train station is skillfully choreographed, stylishly lit and shot Yasha Sklansky and sharply edited by Wayne Wahrman.