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Dark Blue

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Dark Blue

Starring: Kurt Russell, Ving Rhames
Director: Ron Shelton
Rated: R
RunTime: 116 Minutes
Release Date: February 2003
Genres: Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Scott Speedman, Brendan Gleeson, Michael Michele

Review by Harvey Karten
2½ stars out of 4

Director Ron Shelton, whose 1992 film "White Men Can't Jump" is a comic look at urban basketball hustlers, now posits the theory that White Man Can't Tell the Truth. With just about every white cop pictured in the LAPD either on the take or taking down bad guys with extreme prejudice and devising cover-the-butt reasons that deadly force had to be used, "Dark Blue" paints a bleak picture indeed of the men in blue who keep the City of Angels together. There's nothing really new in the story since, after all filmmakers generally point their fingers at corruption in the CIA, the FBI and various and sundy government agencies. What's deadly, though, is that Shelton known principally for sports movies like the aforementioned "White Men Can't Jump" and "Tin Cup" and "Cobb" takes away most of the suspense in his opening shots. Kurt Russell in the role of trigger-happy detective Sgt. Eldon Perry Jr. out to make lieutenant is shown in the opening scene in his digs with a four-day beard and head in hand tipping us off that he's about to go down when the film flashed back a few days. As for the guy he's going to take with him, his immediate boss Jack Van Meter (Brendan Gleeson), we get early wind that he's on the take from the mobsters and actually has the mass murderers whose stash he's confiscating in return for allowing them to carry on their trade address him as "sir."

The principal theme is that corruption is passed down not only from generation to generation (Perry's dad was a cowboy-cop but his teen son hates the force and is choosing another path) but more important, from senior cop to young partner. Perry, not necessarily a racist but a believer that the hoodlums in South Central L.A. should be cleaned off the streets like the trash he considers them, has a mentoring influence on his young partner, Bobby Keough (Scott Speedman). Significantly, the story takes place in 1992 as all of L.A. and principally the black community in the South Central area are peeled to their TV's awaiting the verdict in the Rodney King case, in which four police officers were captured on tape beating the beejezzus out of Mr. King without provocation. When the verdict of not guilty is announced, South Central folks take out their fury on their own neighborhood, looting their own stores and setting fire to anything that will burn. The penultimate scene showing Perry navigating his way through a group of young hostiles who throw everything from sofas to TV sets at his car is the film's most powerful one.

"Dark Blue" rests on the usual cop conventions good cops, bad cops, good guys, bad guys. For political correctness the two thugs who invade a local Korean store to burgle its safe and shoot four innocent people are black and white, one of each, a situation that raises audience credibility eyebrows. (The rap singer Kurupt performs well in the role of Orchard, a man who makes his criminal living under the protection of the pudgy Jack Van Meeter.)

Though Scott Speedman looks too angelic to be on any take, too unlikely to follow the rotting path of his mentor, Perry, the most interesting part of the film deals with the relationship of the two cops. We in the audience can count the minutes until the young man will break with his partner and, in turn, we await the all-too-predictable final let-it-all-hang out speech from Perry on the occasion of his promotion.

Copyright 2003 Harvey Karten

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