Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
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
Russells 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
SISs 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 TVs
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 detectives process
of self-discovering, before delivering its powerful conclusion,
set amid the subsequent riots themselves. It makes for a heady
And while Russell may lack the dynamic charisma of, say, Washingtons
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 Liottas 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
Sheltons 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 films score is a
bit of a hindrance, lending it an unwanted TV series
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.