Dark Blue
Dir: Ron Shelton
Star: Kurt Russell, Scott Speedman, Michael Michele, Brendan Gleeson, Ving Rhames
Cert / Year: 15 - R / 2002
Format: DVD R1

It is 1992 Los Angeles awaits the verdicts of the police officers responsible for the Rodney King beatings, and racial tensions are high. Eldon Perry and his young partner Bobby Keough are part of the LAPD's controversial special investigations unit. They are assigned to clear up a multiple robbery homicide as fast as they can use their officially sanctioned questionable tactics. Are these officers just good soldiers or will they disobey their boss Jack Van Meter and actually investigate the case. Especially as what they may find will threaten to blow apart the LAPD at the same time the whole city is about to go up in flames.

For years cop films have been buddy buddy, big explosions, gunfight-ridden affairs with the likes of Bad Boys, and Lethal Weapon being prime examples. They have displayed zero believability and lots of effect filled eye candy. More recently the gritty, darker, realistic police film has made a reassurance, with possibly the best recent example of this being the very good Training Day. It would seem that cops are no longer action hero's but drug dealing corrupt thugs operating on the wrong side of the law. From the same writer as Training Day, Dark Blue will do nothing to dispel this new myth.

Ok so this story doesn't have the drug element, but is a darkly violent affair. One of its most original ideas is the use of the LA riots as both a backdrop to the action, and the whole question mark over the tactics of the LAPD that went with the riots is cleverly reflected in the story. This is good cop verses bad cop, as the racist thugs under Van Meter who have been operating beyond the law and without comeback go up against the reformer Arthur Holland who aims to bring them to account. As the city descends into anarchy civil war breaks out in the LAPD, and caught in the middle are the rookie of Van Meterís team Bobby Keough and his girlfriend Beth Williamson who works for Holland. The story is handled brilliantly, building into a truly explosive finale. If anything David Ayer has exceeded his achievements in Training Day and produced an even better film.

In the heart of the story is Van Meter's "good soldier", veteran cop Eldon Perry. He follows Van Meter's orders even though he knows deep down what he is doing is wrong, but who is he to question the man who as his Dads partner is a legend to him. It was going to take on heck of a performance to show such an unlikable character as both a murderous racist thug and a sympathetic victim of his own upbringing and Kurt Russell delivers simply one of his best ever performances to do it. He is the key to film and he really delivers the goods.

Of course this would not have counted for much if the other four main characters had been poor but they are far from it. Ving Rhames at last gets a role that doesn't rely on his physical presence and he proves what a fine actor he is. He gives Arthur Holland the cold strength to stand up to the whole establishment no matter how hard it gets. Up against him is the superb Brendan Gleeson his Van Meter is literally the king of the violent thugs and a thoroughly nasty man (what a contrast from his role in 28 Day's Later). Scott Speedman adds some creditable naivety to Bobby Keough, he needs to as such a tough film needs a softer character for the audience to sympathize with. Lastly Michael Michele (Yes she is a girl) is believable in a role that far exceeds mere female window dressing.

Not having a big budget must have given director Ron Shelton a headache or too, but his decision to shoot in the real life run down areas of LA really pays off. It has allowed for a level of detail and authenticity that very few sets could match. Most impressive of all though is the climatic scenes set during the riot. Thanks to some superb direction he has been able capture the sheer craziness and scale of this chaos. This great example of how good old-fashioned direction can tell a story far better than any number of flashing digital camera effects.

Dark Blue is a great film. An outstanding performance from Kurt Russell and the superb script quickly draw you in and keep you gripped till the tensions within the film explode in a truly impressive finale. Full credit must be given to Ron Sheldon and David Ayers they have delivered the best cop film since Training Day.


Sworn to protect. Sworn to serve. Sworn to secrecy.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Picture 2.35:1 Anamorphic Not bad at all.
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Good in the shoot outs, clear during the dialogue.
Features 3 informative featurettes
Ron Shelton Commentary
Photo Gallery
Verdict Good transfer, but a bit light on the extras.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home