Preview by: Jack Foley
THE corrupt cop gets yet another outing in Dark Blue, a somewhat
unusual outing for Bull Durham/Tin Cup director, Ron Shelton,
which finds Kurt Russell cast against type as the morally dubious
officer in blue.
Following hot on the heels of last year's Training
Day and this year's Narc (currently
on release), Dark Blue is set in Los Angeles in April 1992, during
the week of the Rodney King trial.
Russell stars as Sgt Eldon Perry Jr, a tough, fiery LAPD veteran
who claims to have been 'raised up to be a gunfighter by a family
Pounding the beat with a rookie partner (played by Scott Speedman),
he leads the investigation of a racially-motivated robbery-homicide.
Ving Rhames plays their boss, a by-the-book deputy who keeps
a close eye on the aggressive Perry's definition of justice. Sensing
corruption, he threatens to end Perry's intimidating actions on
the LA streets.
According to Entertainment Weekly, the film begins with a TV
broadcasting very real footage from the now-famous amateur videotape
that caught white members of the Los Angeles Police Department
beating up a black man, Rodney King. It then skips back to 'Five
Days Earlier', introducing us to Russell's character, as he looks
down on a bed laden with guns - the implication being, that he
is about to use them.
For Russell, the role marks something of a change of pace, given
that he is usually accustomed to playing the all-out good guy.
But rather like Denzel Washington in the aforementioned Training
Day (he even gets a rookie partner), or even Richard Gere in Internal
Affairs, the casting against type seems to have done him a lot
of favours - helping to earn him some good notices (even from
US critics not that impressed with the film) and erasing the memory
of recent misfires such as Soldier.
The film itself is based on a James Ellory story and has been
adapted by Training Day's David Ayer, which helps to explain why
the mean streets of LA continue to look, well, so darn mean.
Russell believes the movie asks the question: 'If you take one
foot and you step into hell, can you actually come back?'
While for director, Shelton, the project marks the realisation
of a long-term interest, as he told Entertainment Weekly: ''I'm
much more interested in politics than sports. 'It just doesn't
look that way from my filmography.''
But both star and director claim to have 'clicked' over Perry's
ambiguity, as Russell adds: ''We didn't think he was just a bigot,
we didn't think he was just a killer, we didn't think he was just
a bad guy or a bad cop - we thought that was fairly uninteresting.
'This was a guy [who] at heart was someone you could relate to
and wouldn't mind having in your life - doing deeds that we know
The movie will be released on July 4.
The word on Dark Blue was generally good, with many applauding
its gritty, realistic style and Russell's gutsy performance.
Leading the kudos was Entertainment Weekly, which awarded
it an A-, and raved that 'Dark Blue' takes a moral stand. It's
lively but serious. It makes connections between movie-size fictional
LAPD misadventure (that's its ''Training Day'' DNA) and Rodney
King-size reality. It's about something bigger than itself, and
everything - performance, photography, a heart-of-L.A. score by
Terence Blanchard - rises to meet higher expectations'.
It concludes by saying that the film 'goes where all too few
films dare to venture these days into the heart of moral
The Chicago Sun-Times, meanwhile, awared it three out
of four and declared that, 'above all, the movie has the Kurt
Russell performance going for it', while Variety described
it as a 'consistently gripping, well-constructed police thriller'.
Among the negative notices, were the New York Times, which
felt that 'the script is overloaded with exposition and incident,
and for long passages it shows all the verve and imagination of
an episode of 'Hunter'.
Worse still, was Planet-Sickboy, which dismissed it as
'cleverly disguised crap with a decent cast', while Slant Magazine
felt that it is 'a movie that wants to be taken seriously, but
that is impossible when serving up such unsubtle parody'.
Slightly more mixed was E! Online, which awarded it a
C+, and wrote that 'if melodrama were a ticketable violation,
this flick would rack up fines for to-the-hilt performances and
cliché-laden scenes', while USA Today felt that
'until it dissolves into conventional melodrama during a climactic
fracas, this fast-paced story is never less than watchable'. It
awarded it two and a half out of four.
Village Voice, meanwhile, felt that 'however misjudged
and evidently cobbled together in the editing room, Dark Blue
does have the nerve to drive right through the riots with Russell's
Film Threat awarded it three out of five and declared
that 'it gets the job done, but it's not comparable with the other
great films in the genre', while the Los Angeles Times
felt that 'as interesting and successful as it can be within its
limits, but those limits make this a more generic film than its
The Chicago Tribune, meanwhile, awarded it two and a half
out of four and wrote that 'the uninspired structure of "Dark
Blue" leaves the film to simmer where it should sizzle'.
But pack to the positives, and The Onion's A.V. Club declared
that, 'flaws and all, Dark Blue has a combustible energy', while
the New York Post felt that it is 'a crackling and solidly
acted if somewhat familiar police-corruption thriller'
and awarded it two and a half out of four.