Dark Blue

A Film Review By The Mike

Rating: RATED R FOR Language and Violence
Starring: Kurt Russell, Scott Speedman, Ving Rhames, Brendan Gleeson, Michael Michele, Lolita Davidovich
Directed By: Ron Shelton

Final Grade:
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Training Day did it and got everyone going. The bad cop/good cop formula is at full strength lately, with the recent release of the amazing Narc a prime example. Now we get Dark Blue, starring Kurt Russell in the Denzel/Liotta role. (It pains me to even mention the coolness of Kurt Russell and Ray Liotta in the same sentence as Denzel…. so sad it is.)

Dark Blue is set around the Rodney King trial in L.A. For those of you that don’t know, Rodney King was a black guy that got beat by cops after evading them in a chase for a while, and L.A. is short for Los Angeles, which is in California. Now that we have that out of the way, It’s safe for me to tell you that racial tensions in the city were at an all-time high.

In the midst of all this, two thugs (one white, one black), wander into a convenience store, shoot the woman behind the counter, and attempt to steal the safe from the wall. While one of the perps is fighting the safe, the other is plugging bullets into the head of each customer that enters the store. In the end, five are dead, a homeless man is left on the sidewalk with a bullet in his neck, and the crooks flee with the safe.

Enter Sgt. Eldon Perry (Russell), and his young partner Bobby Keough (Scott Speedman). We meet the two as young Bobby is sitting in front of “the shooting board”, where the shooting of a criminal he just committed is under review. The higher forces have no problem with his putting down a lowlife, except for Deputy Chief Holland (Ving Rhames), who is a lone black warrior in the white world of the LAPD.

Perry is a grizzled veteran, filled with racial hatred and tricks that would make any good cop cringe. He’s about to be promoted to Lieutenant, a fact that doesn’t break the cold demeanor of his alcoholic wife (Lolita Davidovich) who is fed up with his neglect of her and their son, a fact that is obvious to everyone but Perry.

Bobby, on the other hand, is the boy everyone wants. Young and pretty, he even has the stenographer from the shooting board passing him her number under the table. He’s involved with a woman whom he thinks is a Sergeant (Michael Michele, who looks creepily like Vanessa Williams) who’s biggest stipulation is that the two don’t reveal their last names to each other.

Then paths start crossing. It turns out that Bobby was not the triggerman in the shooting he was just cleared of, as Perry picked up his gun after he dropped it in fear and fired the shot. Holland is sure he can prove this, and sends his assistant, Sgt. Beth Williamson to look into the matter. She soon realizes she knows Bobby….but not his last name.

At the same time the two cops are put on the case at the convenience store, and within hours are pretty sure they know the two thugs who are responsible. The problem is that the criminals are their boss’s best informants, and he won’t let them go down. Perry must find a patsy.

There are many levels to the story of Dark Blue. If you’ve understood what I’ve written thus far, you’re in good shape, but still far from the total picture of the picture. The script, based on a story by James “L.A. Confidential” Ellroy, puts itself together perfectly, and the setting adds another dimension to it all. The final scenes, taking place after the King verdict are a perfect representation of chaos. I have to say the work of Director Ron Shelton surprised me, knowing him basically as the director of sports films like White Men Can’t Jump and Play it to the Bone that require little of the style it took to make theses scenes work.

The key to this film is Kurt Russell, in a performance the likes of which we’ve never seen from him before. From the opening moments he had me hooked, and never slowed in his portrayal of Perry. He has the perfect demeanor for this role, and I was thoroughly happy to see this performance. It’s most definitely the best work he’s done in his long career (although Captain Ron is right up there). The other performances are also good (Speedman and Gleeson especially), although there are times where Rhames seems a little over the top in his role.

The final scene with Russell is a little overwrought, and I’ve dropped my grade of this film a notch on that fact alone. But Dark Blue is a film that will keep your attention, keep you entertained, and keep you from trusting cops. Not that you should anyway, they’re the devil. Add the excellent performance by Kurt Russell, and Dark Blue is the best film 2003 has seen yet.

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