Dark Blue (2002) / Thriller-Drama

MPAA Rated: R for violence, language and brief sexuality
Running Time: 118 min.

Cast: Kurt Russell, Scott Speedman, Ving Rhames, Brendan Gleeson, Michael Michelle
Director: Ron Shelton
Screenplay: David Ayer

Review published February 25, 2003

The man who wrote the story behind DARK BLUE, James Ellroy, is no stranger to the police corruption stories.  He made a grand one before, which was made into an equally grand film, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL.  For that matter, he's always been writing on the subject, and in particular how it relates to perhaps the most notorious bad apple police force, the LAPD.  Whether or not they deserve the rap is a subject of great debate, but there's no question that we're not likely to see an end to the controversy any time soon if this film is any indication.  It's a worthwhile subject to delve into.  Unfortunately DARK BLUE's heavy-handed approach isn't likely to change many opinions.

The setting is Los Angeles of 1992, just days before the verdicts are handed down all but fully exonerating the four police officers charged with the beating of Rodney King.  Kurt Russell plays Eldon Perry, a veteran dirty cop working for the SIS, the Special Investigations Squad, headed by Jack Van Meter (Gleeson).  Eldon is currently partnered with a new recruit named Bobby, and he's been showing him the ropes of police corruption from the inside out.  They are now handed a case involving the robbery of a liquor store, which resulted in the deaths of four innocent people.  It turns out that Jack ordered the robbery using a couple of lackeys he keeps around for his own money-making schemes, and he wants Eldon to pin the affair on two other crooks, unrelated to the crime at hand. 

DARK BLUE is not without its merits, as it does feature some fine performances, most notably by Kurt Russell as a bad cop wrestling the demons of his own creation.  There is also some compelling action as the LA riots begin to unfold and we get to see first-hand what ground zero must have been like amid the looters and people out to harm anyone they can.  The supporting cast is also excellent, with Rhames and Michelle representing the good cops in fine fashion.  The dialogue is excellent, from the language between cops and the credible vernacular of the streets.

Where DARK BLUE falters is in its story, which unfortunately comes too closely on the heels of TRAINING DAY to not seem redundant, especially when you consider that David Ayer was the screenwriter for both films.  The case is not very exciting, and the climax of the film seems too contrived to be believable.  As a movie-of-the-week on television, perhaps this might have been decent fare, but the moral message seems too blatant to swallow as a realistic look into corruption and poor race relations.

DARK BLUE is one of those movies that might make for a decent second or third film on a night of multiple rentals from your video store.  There's enough here to hold your interest, but not enough to satisfy you for an evening's entertainment on its own.  Fans of Kurt Russell will rejoice seeing him in his best role in years, but he's one of the few bright spots in an otherwise over-ambitious affair.

Qwipster's rating:

2002 Vince Leo