Unfortunately for Perry, it's April 1992, and not a very good time to be an arrogant, white LAPD officer. The Rodney King trial has set L.A. on the precipice of Armageddon, and the verdict - to be announced imminently - has become the focal point for a metropolis simmering with class and racial tension. Perry, however, has more pressing matters to worry about. His partner, a wet-behind-the-ears rookie named Bobby Keough (played with baby-faced blankness by ex-Felicity hunk Scott Speedman), has screwed up an arrest, and Perry - always looking to back up a fellow brother in blue - has killed the defenseless perp (with Keough's gun) rather than letting him escape. The film begins with both officers knee-deep into lying their way through an eight-hour inquiry, since Perry has decided that his incompetent protégé should take the heat for the killing anyway. As far as Perry is concerned, one's first shooting inquiry is a right of passage - a baptism into an immoral system that's primarily sworn to protect and serve its own members.
It's a crooked law enforcement world that's been cinematically well documented over the past 25 years (Sidney Lumet is king of this sub-genre, which might be called "The Crooked Cop Comeuppance Film") and Shelton, working from a script by David Ayer, is eager to use each and every cliché at his disposal. As Perry and Keough attempt to solve a convenience store robbery turned deadly, the city itself glows with a fiery reddish-brown hue that prophesies the impending King-inspired rampage's flames, a stark contrast to the cool blue and white fluorescence of the police force's inner sanctum. This obvious visual cue - which also helps differentiate between the people that reside in and control the corridors of power (whites) and those who traverse the destitute, crime-infested ghetto (non-whites) - is part and parcel of the ham-fisted symbolism running rampant through this rote tale of police treachery exposed. While Perry forces Keough to shoot a patsy in an alley, a little Asian girl watches, clutching her milk bottle, from a neighboring house window. When Keough pulls the trigger - thus damning himself to a lifetime of guilt and regret - the little girl's bottle drops to the ground, shattered as quickly as the rookie's fragile innocence. It's easily the most laughable metaphor of the still-young film year.
Rather than probing the mindset of a man like Perry - whose smug sense of righteousness, while Hollywood-exaggerated, is nonetheless eerily convincing - the film is preoccupied with Perry and Keough's dawning realization that their supposedly loyal boss Jack Van Meter (Brendan Gleeson) may have had something to do with the robbery they're investigating. More distressing to Perry, though, is his recognition of the fact that even loyal soldiers like himself are expendable if they choose to rock the boat a bit too much. The film, however, is overly convoluted for such a straightforward morality play. Compounding Perry's numerous problems are Arthur Holland (Ving Rhames) - the upright deputy police chief determined to oust Perry and his ilk from the force despite the personal or professional consequences - and Keough's romance with Holland's Sgt. Beth Williamson (Michael Michele), who spurs the young idealist to question his loyalty to his renegade partner. The film culminates in a predictably unbelievable showdown of revenge, revelation, and redemption, but the script's schematic design has, by the L.A. riot finale, devolved into contrived fantasy. In Dark Blue's black and white world, evildoers can find some measure of redemption by learning to see the error of their ways. Given the real world's multiple shades of grey, however, the film's tidy conclusion strikes me as wishful thinking.
That windshield's coming out of your paycheck.
Run time: 118 mins
In Theaters: Friday 21st February 2003
Box Office USA: $9.1M
Box Office Worldwide: $9.2M
Distributed by: MGM Distribution Company
Production compaines: Intermedia Films, IM Filmproduktion, Cosmic Pictures, Alphaville Films
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 58%
Fresh: 74 Rotten: 54
IMDB: 6.6 / 10
Director: Ron Shelton
Screenwriter: David Ayer
Starring: Kurt Russell as Eldon Perry, Scott Speedman as Bobby Keough, Michael Michele as Beth Williamson, Brendan Gleeson as Jack van Meter, Ving Rhames as Arthur Holland, Lolita Davidovich as Sally Perry, Dash Mihok as Gary Sidwell, Kurupt as Darryl Orchard, Master P as Maniac, Marin Hinkle as Deena Schultz
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