Dark Blue

Dark Blue

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

No, this is not another meander through the loves and lives of varsity rowers, with their petty snobberies and English public school dysfunction. It's a tough LAPD corruption saga. Think Rodney King; think Training Day with Kurt Russell doing Denzel Washington; think unacceptable violence for a 15-certificate.

Based on a James Ellroy story and scripted by David Eyer, it feels like the real thing, whatever that may be. It is the business of the director, in this case Lolita Davidovich's husband, Ron Shelton, better known for his sport related movies (Bull Durham, White Men Can't Jump, Tin Cup), to create an ambience of frontier town ethics - plant the evidence, shoot the witness, rule the streets - that rides roughshod over concepts of fair play and the Bill of Rights.

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Detective Eldon Perry (Russell) considers himself "a good soldier", which means he follows orders, doesn't have a conscience when it comes to wasting bad guys, works every hour to clean the streets of scum and is proud of his family connection with the police - dad, grandad, etc. His methods are old fashioned redneck hit-and-gun. The thought of asking permission to beat a prisoner senseless is so far down the line of probability that it doesn't raise a flicker on his radar screen. He has rage against the enemy, which is not the same as being racist. The question of good and evil is easily answered. He's good, they're evil.

As with Ethan Hawke in Training Day, he has a rookie for a partner. Bobby Keough (Scott Speedman) has already been implicated into lying to Internal Affairs about who fired a fatal shot in some hoodlum murder. His uncle, Jack Van Meter (Brendan Gleeson), is Perry's boss and one of the good ole boys from the days when Los Angeles was supressed and exploited by the forces of law and disorder. It wasn't called corruption then, it was called kickback.

There are many strands to the plot, each involving manipulation of others for personal advancement. Keough may be green, but he's no patsy. He sees through Perry's hard exterior to a man driven by hate and loyalty. Van Meter has a couple of ex-con punks (Kurupt and Dash Mihok) working for him in all kinds of criminal activity and it is they who spark the flames that burn so fiercely, even as the city explodes after the King jury acquits four white cops of unlawful battery against an unarmed man, exposing the racial lie at the heart of government.

Although from a different period, Dark Blue is a better film than LA Confidential. Shelton stays close to the ground, avoiding pastiche. The performances are strong and the script is lean. The scenes of riot in South Central capture the chaos and fury of underprivileged African Americans, humiliated by a white nation, too careless to hide their contempt for the powerless.

In the end, justice is a word and words can break your bones.

Reviewed on: 03 Jul 2003
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Corruption amongst the LAPD during the period of street violence after the Rodney King trial.
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Read more Dark Blue reviews:

Jennie Kermode ***

Director: Ron Shelton

Writer: David Ayer, based on a story by James Ellroy

Starring: Kurt Russell, Scott Speedman, Michael Michelle, Brendan Gleeson, Ving Rhames, Kurupt, Dash Mihok, Jonathan Banks, Khandi Alexander, Dana Lee, Lolita Davidovich

Year: 2002

Runtime: 118 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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