Dark Blue

Stars: Kurt Russell, Scott Speedman, Michael Michele, Brendan Gleeson, Ving Rhames
Director: Ron Shelton
Screenwriter: David Ayer; adapted from the James Ellroy story, The Plague Season

Against the backdrop of the Rodney King beating trial and subsequent riots of 1992 Los Angeles, Dark Blue explores the crisis of conscience for two LAPD street detectives caught up in departmental corruption and criminality.

Kurt Russell ably plays Sgt. Eldon Perry, a complex character in an all too familiar plot that paints police corruption with a clichéd broad stroke. An alcoholic with marital troubles, Perry tows the line in his elite special investigations unit – “raised up to be a gunfighter by a family of gunfighters”, and whose only motivation is getting the scum off the street any way he can – even if by illegal means. His superior is Jack Van Meter (Brendan Gleeson, superb with sparse material) whose motivation is a little more slanted toward personal greed. Still, Perry reveres him because Van Meter comes from the old school and used to work with Perry’s father. Along with his rookie partner Bobby Keough (a sappy Scott Speedman), who is also Van Meter’s nephew, Perry leads an investigation of what appears to be a racially motivated robbery-homicide at a Korean convenience store but quickly comes to realize his efforts merely serve to cover up police malfeasance. Bobby, who’s sucked up into the action, is the first to fold under the pressure of his conscience. Perry fights to hold on to his beliefs but becomes increasingly disillusioned, particularly when he himself proves a liability to Van Meter’s personal code. Above them all is Deputy Chief Arthur Holland (Ving Rhames), a holier than thou gospel-wailing stereotype who wants to be the first black police chief in Los Angeles’ history. Holland knows things are rancid in his department; he just can’t prove it … yet.

Adapted from a James Ellroy story by David Ayer, who also wrote the intenseTraining Day, Dark Blue is watchable drama but lacks depth. Most of the characters are sketchy and the plot is not terribly interesting no matter how much it’s swathed in important historic events. There is an excellent scene between Perry and wife Sally (Lolita Davidovich) where we get a hint that Perry is the kind of man who is able to acknowledge the bad choices he made. And later, he proves us correct. Scott Speedman as Bobby looks, acts and sounds more as if he should be hanging out at an outdoor café than hoisting a gun at bad guys. And the semi-anonymous affair he’s having with Holland’s assistant, Sgt. Beth Williamson (Michael Michele) is laughable leading to predictable. Lolita Davidovich does a remarkable job with her miniscule role.

Lotta says:
Dark Blue is fairly pale with a tinge along the edges of something quite good – it’s called Kurt Russell. It’s rated R for violence, language and brief sexuality .

Reviewed 2/28/03