off his ’06-’07 Best Actor World Tour, Forest Whitaker has just booked what looks to be his fifth post-Last King of Scotland role in David Ayer’s The Night Watchman, in which the hardest-working-survivor-of-Battlefield Earth-in-show-business will star alongside Keanu Reeves. Though I was much more excited about this James Ellroy-scripted cop drama when Spike Lee was set to direct, I’m a big enough fan of Training Day to give Ayer another chance behind the camera after the oppressively one-note Harsh Times.

Ayer certainly knows the terrain of The Night Watchman, which takes place on the less-than-agreeable streets of Los Angeles, where an elite unit of police officers called Ad/Vice go above and beyond the law to keep gang violence and drug trafficking under control. Reeves plays the cop with something approaching a conscience, while Whitaker will take on the role of the captain who loves him more than he feels comfortable letting on. I might be reading more than is appropriate into the film’s logline, but, for some reason, Michael Fleming’s prose at Variety was giving off a little more heat than usual.

The Ellroy pedigree means I’m seeing this no matter what; I mean, it can’t be worse than Dark Blue, which wasted a tremendous Kurt Russell performance. Hopefully, Ayer reworks the script without losing Ellroy’s inimitable voice. The Night Watchman is set to begin production May 21st, and, unless Fox Searchlight is starved for award-worthy product by the end of the year, probably won’t hit theaters until 2008.