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Dark Blue - Preview & US reaction



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 of gunfighters'.

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 are wrong.''

The movie will be released on July 4.

US reaction...

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 darkness'.

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 saber-toothed bigot'.

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 makers intended'.

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.

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