Retro Review: Dark Blue

Written: February 25, 2003

Written by LA Confidential’s James Ellroy, Dark Blue reveals the under-belly of the L.A.P.D., which has become over-whelmed with corruption. It isn’t your typical cop-story where a man laced in blue garners his shield and knows the difference between right and wrong.

“Dark Blue” stars Kurt Russell as Eldon Perry, a career cop who has been following his family tradition in being a cop who upholds the law.

Eldon knows how to take orders. He is a good “blue-soldier”. The years haven’t been kind to Eldon and he seems to be drifting further and further away from his wife (Lolita Davidovich) and son.

Eldon has been partnered up with the police force’s latest golden boy, Bobby Keough (Scott Speedman).

Bobby is fresh from the Academy and the nephew to the most powerful man on the force, Jack Van Meter (Brendan Gleeson).

When a robbery goes awry, Eldon and Bobby are ordered by Van Meter to uncover the truth behind the robbery. The problem is that the crime could unlock the very fiber of the L.A.P.D. and bring down one of the largest police forces in the country.

“Dark Blue” has a lot of competition and comparisons to overcome. From “Training Day” to “Internal Affairs” to TV’s The Shield, corruption in the police force has been explored and debated on celluloid before. But this time the film is more about the central character than the debate. Is that a good thing?

Kurt Russell’s portrayal of that character is charismatic, poignant, and we can see his internal struggle. Russell hasn’t been this powerful or mesmerizing in a very long time. After a lot of action duds, people were probably wondering if he still had it in him. I find that Russell’s Eldon is no where near as dark as Denzel Washington’s Alonso Harris in “Training Day”. Instead Eldon has a more internal struggle going on as we can see by his continuous intake of alcohol and the only way he is able to say his true feelings is in a drunken stupor. Eldon is heavily flawed and probably not a morally strong man. He is a wonderfully fractured character that Russell excels with.

What is also interesting to watch is the interactions between Eldon and the other cast members especially his partner and wife. I really liked the almost counter-shadowing of Eldon and Bobby. They are polar opposites but Eldon is desperate to try to get Bobby to become like him so that he can become what Eldon believes is a good police officer. I enjoyed actor Scott Speedman’s of TV’s Felicity as Eldon’s partner. There is portions of his character he played on the series within Bobby but what is great is that Speedman uses those strengths to help us relate to “green-cop” Bobby.

“Dark Blue” is a finely crafted film but not a great film. The edge and realism the film strives for isn’t evident throughout. The film’s focus shows a lot of layers within Eldon and sometimes Bobby but often neglects the same layers in the people around them. This is evident in the film’s central villain. I would like to have seen more attention to detail. What made these guys tick? I would also like to have seen more about the riots. The movie circles and skates around them but never gets the story inside.

“Dark Blue” could have been darker.

(4 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

2 thoughts on “Retro Review: Dark Blue

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