Born of a treatment by James Ellroy, 2003's Dark Blue will undoubtedly remind some viewers of 1997's L.A. Confidential. Set in Los Angeles in April 1992, the story follows a sometimes crooked cop Eldon Perry (Kurt Russell) who's partnered with good-looking rookie Bobby Keough (Scott Speedman), and who constantly butts heads against the by-the-book Arthur Holland (Ving Rhames), which evokes comparisons to the threesome in Confidential. On top of that, there's a benevolent older figure in Jack Van Meter, who (like Dudley Smith) is a corrupt powerbroker who uses Eldon and his connection to Eldon's dad to get Eldon to do his dirty work. Things come to a head when Eldon gets assigned a robbery/homicide that he knows was perpetrated by Orchard and Sidwell (Kurupt, Dash Mihok) two of Van Meter's snitches but is told to put the collar on two other criminals, and it doesn't matter who. Keough feels he's crossed the line and reports the misdeeds to Holland, but Van Meter's got his ears to the ground as the city is ready to explode with the verdict of Rodney King's assailants to be announced. Titled during production both The Plague Season and 4-29-92, one can see, with the removal of James Ellroy and the inclusion of David Ayer (Training Day) to touch up Ellroy's work, that the cold heart of Ellroy has been a bit softened the script doesn't have his withering sensibilities. That said, Ellroy voice's can be seen throughout, and one of the most striking things about the film is that it connects everything that happens in the movie with the reality of 1992 Los Angeles suggesting that the years may have changed, but it's still the same old shit. What may be most remarkable about the film is Kurt Russell: a 40-year showbiz veteran, Dark Blue features one of the finest performances in his underrated career. Many stars might have tried to soften Eldon's character, who is a drunk, a racist, and absentee father, but Russell makes the character compelling and sympathetic without dulling the edges, and he gets one of those great "actor" scenes wherein he chews his young partner out but doesn't believe a word of what he's saying. He also has to deliver a rambling five-minute speech at the end of the film in which he's the only person talking, and he does so brilliantly. Another aspect worth savoring is in the third act the film, which recreates the Rodney King riots though director Ron Shelton doesn't give the film the same intensity of a great noir throughout, he delivers it in this final section. MGM's DVD release of Dark Blue presents the film in both anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and pan-and-scan with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include a commentary by Shelton, three featurettes running 32 minutes in total entitled "Internal Affairs," a photo gallery, the theatrical trailer, and more previews for other MGM titles. Keep-case.
Back to Quick Reviews Index: [A-F] [G-L] [M-R] [S-Z]