A/V Room









Dark Blue (15)

Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary by director Ron Shelton; 'Internal Affairs' featurette; Gallery; Trailers.

THE Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, in 1992, provide the unsettling background for yet another corrupt cop thriller that provides Kurt Russell with one of his best roles in years.

Following hot on the heels of both Training Day and Narc, Dark Blue follows Russell’s veteran Special Investigations Squad (SIS) detective, Eldon Perry, as he investigates a quadruple homicide at a South Central liquor store just days before the acquittal of four white police officers in the beating of black motorist, Rodney King.

While not directly connected to the King case, Perry represents a rotten element that was present within the LAPD at the time, albeit a conflicted one. His hard line approach and unflinching attitude towards criminals has earned him a legendary status among his colleagues and is frequently used by equally corrupt superiors to get things done.

Yet he is aware of the monster that he has become and begins a journey towards redemption that makes for a fascinating movie.

So while educating his rookie partner, Bobby Keough (Scott Speedman), in the grim realities of police intimidation and corruption, and trying to side-step the unwanted attentions of Assistant Chief Holland (Ving Rhames), the only man willing to stand up to the SIS’s brand of ‘justice’, Perry is also wrestling with his inner demons, trying to find a way out of the mire he has created for himself.

Based upon a story by James Ellroy and directed by Ron Shelton, Dark Blue may not sound that different from countless other corrupt cop scenarios currently doing the rounds (including TV’s The Shield), but it leaves just as lasting an impression, not least because of the real-life backdrop it is set against.

The movie opens with real footage of the Rodney King beating, which immediately triggers the emotions, before cutting to a jittery Perry, sat in a hotel room awaiting the trial verdict, and contemplating the consequences of his actions.

The ensuing movie then chronicles the detective’s process of self-discovering, before delivering its powerful conclusion, set amid the subsequent riots themselves. It makes for a heady mix.

And while Russell may lack the dynamic charisma of, say, Washington’s corrupt thug, his brutish cowboy - a sort of latter day Wyatt Earp, ‘brought up by a family of gunfighters to be a gunfighter’ - is no less memorable, managing to tread that fine line between empathy and hate.

There is a likeability about him that makes his struggle to re-adjust worth rooting for, even though many of his actions remain objectionable - rather like Ray Liotta’s turn in Narc.

Russell, too, seems to relish the opportunity to get his teeth into a role that plays on the hard man persona he has created for himself, while also giving him a lot more to do with character. He is ably supported by the likes of Speedman, Brendan Gleeson and Rhames - although the latter feels a little under-used.

The movie should also be applauded for its willingness to tackle difficult issues, such as racism and police corruption, in an uncompromising style, and for refusing to cop out at the end - it is little wonder that the LAPD refused to give its co-operation while filming.

Shelton’s direction is also well-paced, even though there are times when the film could benefit from a more independent style (as employed by Narc), while the film’s score is a bit of a hindrance, lending it an unwanted ‘TV series’ feel.

But these are minor quibbles in an otherwise gutsy movie which sits well alongside other films in the genre, not least because of its grounding in reality.

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