|UK Release Date||4th July 2003|
|Reviewed||23rd December 2014|
Kurt Russell’s eyes are wired. Those baby blues are ringed with red, the Disney child paranoid, sweating booze and armed to the teeth. Those jump cuts are making us anxious from the off. We’re back in the early 90s and that Rodney King beating doesn’t get any better with age. Kurt is Sgt Eldon Perry a corrupt foot soldier of the LAPD, one of those hard nosed racist bastards that so often populate the writing of James Elroy and David Ayer, the West Coast equivalents of Sidney Lumet, “The choke hold saved lives, but, ah, nobody ever got elected saying that, I suppose.”
Five days earlier and Perry is breezing through a police shooting board with his rookie partner Bobby Keough. As two of LA’s finest cheat the system, two ex-cons Orchard and Sidwell are executing a growing pile of victims in the Jack O’Hearts convenience store robbery, Eazy motherfucking E blaring on the soundtrack. Their casual disregard for life is staggering and perhaps violent thugs like Eldon Perry are just what The City of Angels needs to take on this particular pair of homicidal psychopaths.
However Perry, Bobby, Sidwell and Orchard are merely pawns in a civil war that threatens to split the department. Commander Jack Van Meter pulls the strings, judge, jury and executioner, “I’m a performer of unpleasant tasks so that the majority of people are free to perform pleasant ones.” Van Meter’s feud is with the black Assistant Chief Holland and the internecine conflict is sharply divided down racial lines, exacerbated by the impending verdict of the four officers charged with the Rodney King beating.
Holland isn’t prepared to take Van Meter’s shit lying down, the two hulking bruisers barely squeezing into a lift, “I know how you fight, I'm ready for you. We can handle this like gentlemen or we can get into some Nigger shit. So you do whatever it is you feel you have to do.” The problem is nobody on the force is squeaky clean-not even Holland. Dark Blue’s moral high ground only presents its audience with varying shades of corruption and infidelity, making an ethical platform from which to take on the system as safe as placing dynamite under the very foundations on which you stand.
As Van Meter dispatches Perry and Bobby to investigate Jack O’Hearts, the partners start to climb out of their own cesspool of lies, falsified evidence and cold-blooded murder. Their redemption will never be complete as their crimes are too great; Perry knows the writing is on the wall when the Rodney King officers are acquitted, “If the city is starting to burn, Jack, it's partly because of guys like you and me.” All he can do is hunt down Orchard and Sidwell through the apocalyptic riots; the rage at the injustice felt at the Rodney King verdict threatening to spill off the screen and yank you out of your cinema chair.
Dark Blue is a blistering movie once again made relevant by the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and all too familiar exoneration of Darren Wilson and the subsequent backlash felt across America. Director Ron Shelton ratchets up the tension scene by scene aided by a gloriously retro early 90s score by Terence Blanchard and music by LA’s finest rappers, NWA, The D.O.C., M.C. Ren, Tone Loc not to mention the epic Streets on Fire credit track by Porno For Pyros featuring Kurupt.
The dialogue carries more punch than a Tyson uppercut chewed and spat out with relish by Scott Speedman, Brendan Gleeson, Ving Rhames, Kurupt, Dash Mihok and Michael Michele. But at the very black heart of Dark Blue is a mesmerizing performance by Kurt Russell as Perry, “I was raised up to be a gunfighter by a family of gunfighters.” Stinking of booze and blood but with a twinkle in his eye that only a child actor whose name was the last words spoken by Walt Disney on his deathbed could pull off. Eldon Perry’s downfall is all the more tragic because we love Kurt Russell the direct descendent of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood so much.
Check out the trailer here.