Feature by: Jack Foley
THE corrupt/flawed cop is in danger of becoming an overworked
genre at the moment, what with Denzel Washingtons blistering
turn in Training Day
paving the way for the likes of Narc
(earlier this year) and now Dark Blue.
Yet Kurt Russells latest addition to the series is given
added significance by the fact that the story, while fictional,
is set against the backdrop of some very real events - those which
followed the Rodney King case in Los Angeles, in 1992, when four
white cops were acquitted of beating black motorist, Rodney King.
Dark Blue producer, Cotty Chubb, had first-hand experience of
the emotions that the incident stirred in the City of Angels,
and immediately felt drawn to the cinematic possibilities.
"I thought about what a great movie it would be," he
explained. "And a couple of years later, I had the opportunity
to meet James Ellroy, who had a story to tell. It was about the
Watts riot, but my partners and I at Alphaville suggested that
he make it more contemporary."
Significantly, Kurt Russell was always first choice to portray
the character of Eldon Perry, the uncompromising veteran whose
attitudes and tactics are said to mirror those of many LAPD cops
at the time of the riots.
He spent five years developing the project, having felt drawn
to the importance of the message in the screenplay,
as well as the challenge of playing the type of role he is not
usually associated with.
"Hes a man who has become educated by the street,"
explains Russell, "and hes gone over the line. But
he is a man who, over the next four days, is going to find out
how far over the line hes gone. More than any other character
Ive played, hes a real person."
The actor was also keen to make Perry a character that audiences
could empathise with, despite his obvious flaws.
"People, like Eldon Perry, have a side to them thats
likeable," he continued. "However, he mixes that likeability
with a volatility that is real. His hatred for certain criminals
"Whats going to be interesting to see is if and where
the audience lets Eldon off the hook. Where they buy Eldon and
where they reject him.
"Hes a risky character, one that you can hate. But
I think at times you can also like him. And, in the end, I hope
they feel some compassion for and empathy with him."
Russell goes on to speak about the ensuing movie as a labour
of love for everyone involved, and points out that a lot
of time was invested in getting the details right.
To help accomplish this, director, Ron Shelton, enlisted the
support of former LAPD detective, Bob Souza, as a technical advisor,
to help with the details of police work, to get the procedural
stuff right and to humanise the cops so that they didnt
become a cartoon of good and evil.
Souza explains: "This is a fictional story, but its
really close to me. It depicts detectives in robbery homicide,
as well as in the special investigations section.
"It has been important for me to keep everything as technically
accurate as I can. I retired as a detective in the robbery homicide
after 20 years on the force."
However, given the films subject matter, the LAPD itself
was not willing to give its full co-operation, which meant that
actors such as Scott Speedman [Russells co-star] werent
able to go on ride-alongs to help research their roles.
Yet that, in a way, has only made the filmmakers more proud of
what they have achieved and they hope that audiences will be suitably
Concludes Shelton: "I would like people to be engaged by
this tale through the dark world of cops, their problems and their
solutions. I want them to follow the story of a cop who goes to
hell and sees if he can make it back.
"I also want them to think about corruption and racism.
If they come out of the theatre saying that was a really irritating
movie about a bunch of crazy cops and, on the drive home, realise
and say, I think it was about more than that, I will
have done my job."