2003, R, 113 min. Directed by Ron Shelton. Starring Kurt Russell, Scott Speedman, Ving Rhames, Brendan Gleeson, Michael Michele, Lolita Davidovich, Master P, Kurupt.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Feb. 21, 2003
When Kurt Russell, playing corrupt LAPD Sergeant Eldon Perry, arrives at the tail-end of the third act of Dark Blue to blow the lid off the dirty, racist politics of his fellow officers, he ambles up and spits out a stream of semi-sober verbiage that makes those in his sites cringe and reel. On the minus side, so does the audience – Russell was far more believable (as was the dialogue, ripped though it was from a multitude of Fifties-era Westerns) as the lone gunslinger Snake Plissken in John Carpenter’s nervy, sexy Escape From New York. The script – by screenwriter David Ayer, working from an original story by no less than that master of boiled-unto-stone chattiness, James Ellroy – has Perry rehashing the obvious in no uncertain terms: "I was raised up a gunfighter by a family of gunfighters," he tells the assembled blue throng. Well, duh. He delivers a litany of Internal Affairs-baiting sins, such as planting evidence and using excessive deadly force whenever the wind blows or a dog barks, although it’s been apparent for the preceding 90 minutes that Perry’s a maverick scumbag in the old, Daryl Gates LAPD. Director Shelton and writer Ayer have managed the seemingly impossible in Dark Blue: They’ve taken an Ellroy original and made it as dull as the blue steel on a standard issue police 9mm. Set during the days leading up to the disastrous acquittal of the police officers charged with beating Rodney King, Dark Blue sets out to be a meditation on race and interdepartmental police politics gone awry, but ends up a snoozy rehash of the age-old good cop/bad cop pas de deux. It’s as though the filmmakers lost their guts midway through and decided to wrap things up with one of those vague yet rousing speeches vilifying the internecine squabbles that marked the LAPD’s (most recent) dark hour. So what? As Perry, Russell, drunk and in charge of a ballistic temper and the lead firepower to match, ambles his way through the film alongside rookie partner Bobby Keough, played by Speedman (Felicity’s Ben), who’s up before a court of inquiry investigating the shooting of a suspect. In between Perry’s rantings about how the bad guys need to be put down and the streets are mean (there’s no mention of the "real rain that will wash the scum off the streets" à la Travis Bickle, but that’s apparently only because Paul Schrader already nailed it in Taxi Driver), the pair dodge bullets, both real and figurative, emanating from Ving Rhames’ Deputy Chief Arthur Holland. Dropped among the dreary gun battles and vile pontificating is a bizarre romance between the young Keough and Holland’s assistant (Michele) that does zero to stimulate an already over-caffeinated plot. Ultimately, Dark Blue feels roughly a decade too late with its back story of the Los Angeles riots. Gates’ department had its share of dirty blues, to be sure, but that hasn’t been notable since the smoke cleared back in 1992.