Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 118 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Kurt Russell, Ving Rhames, Brendan Gleeson, Scott Speedman. Screenplay by David Ayer (TRAINING DAY, S.W.A.T.). Story by James Ellroy (L.A. CONFIDENTIAL) who later disavowed his involvement.
Tag-line: "Sworn to protect... Sworn to serve... Sworn to secrecy."
Best one-liner: "Your whore's dead."
Police corruption, race riots, a city on the brink- we've seen these things before.
DARK BLUE isn't going to fuel any earth-shattering epiphanies about the nature of humanity. But let me tell you what it does bring to the table...
Wearing white tube socks with dress shoes, cackling inappropriately, and possessing an infectious, irresistible joie de vivre, Russell's been in the business of making 'middle-of-the-line' movies 'great' since THE COMPUTER WORE TENNIS SHOES.
That being said, it's also one of Russell's best, most complex performances, and he runs the gamut from 'aw, fuck it' aplomb to giggly panache to unconsolable despair. Taking place in the immediate aftermath of the Rodney King beating, DARK BLUE is a period piece (note that a love scene is staged with candlelight, flowing curtains, and silk sheets- not sure if that was intentional, per sé, but- ahh, 1991...), and it examines an LAPD on the verge of reaping what it has sown- that is, "a city built on bullets.” Martini-sipping judges sign bogus search warrants, crimes are pinned on political flavor-of-the-month fall guys, and it's all done in the name of 'being a team player.' Smack dab in the middle of this is Kurt's Eldon Perry, a cop integral to this crooked system who's only now at the threshold of seeing it for what it really is. He maces bystanders, tampers with evidence at the drop of a hat, and doesn't just beat suspects– he beats witnesses! He makes Hank Quinlan look like Barney Fife, and yet, only because Kurt is so likable are you even remotely on board to see this man redeem himself.
Along the way, we've got supporting turns by a flinty Ving Rhames and an amoral Brendan Gleeson (whose American accent is spotty at best, but all is forgiven with the matter-of-fact pulse check and follow-up, "Your whore's dead."):
Anyway, the film builds to a denouement where its success does not rest on a cookie-cutter action sequence, but rather pure melodrama: and a tour de force Russell monologue provides an unexpected, completely satisfying payoff. Four stars.