I am very pleasantly surprised. The buzz I heard on Dark Blue was all negative. I didn’t bother seeing it. Mistake: Jonny. Director Ron Shelton thankfully didn’t write this one (James Ellroy did). The last movie he did write was Bad Boys II. Instead, he just directed and did a fine job at that, coaxing out one of the most nuanced performances of Kurt Russell’s career. Russell plays Eldon Perry, a third generation Los Angeles detective who’s almost as corrupt as Denzel Washington’s nasty character in Training Day. Russell’s Perry is actually more believable, though, for where Denzel’s Officer Harris was a free agent, basically running shit on his own, Officer Perry has a definite and sinister master. Not surprisingly, both screenplays are by David Ayer, who also wrote the oh so lowly S.W.A.T.. However, he also wrote the magnificent The Fast and the Furious, so…

Brendon Gleeson plays Jack Van Meter. Back in the day he was Perry’s father’s partner. The two of them “built [L.A.] on bullets.” Out of a perverted sense of loyalty or tradition or family — whatever — when Van Meter says “jump,” Perry kills people for him. The old bad cop, worse cop. Thrown into the mix is Perry’s junior partner, Detective Keough (Speedman); handsome, young and very impressionable, it takes Keough over half the film to learn that he has hitched his wagon to a falling star. More like a meteor. Basically, Van Meter has two ex-cons rob a Korean underworld boss of $150,000. The two are crackhead dipshits so they waste four people while stealing the safe from the K-Town boss’s liquor store. One of the victims is a police dispatcher so the case is given priority, i.e. Perry and Keough get it. Using some of the most fucked up, unconstitutional shit I have ever seen, Perry basically figures the whole case out in three hours. While good is not the appropriate word, effective is. Dark Blue takes good cop/bad cop to a whole new level when while driving his car, Perry repeatedly turns around to pepper spray a guy they have in handcuffs. Excellent scene. When the two report back to Van Meter that the two crackheads did it (again, the crackheads are Van Meter’s boys), Van Meter says bollocks and forces Perry to pin the robbery/homicide on two other “scum bags.” And Van Meter doesn’t want the two pasties arrested, he wants them dead.

Now, in the background some other noteworthy shit is happening. Perry’s marriage is falling apart (I would love to one day see a cop movie where the wife accepts and supports the fact that her husband is out on the streets, taking care of punks), his own son is scared to death of him, he’s basically an alcoholic and an overly-righteous assistant chief (Rhames) wants his badge and gun. Oh, and the Rodney King trial is taking place. The jury has been deliberating for most of the film. Perry is also a complete fascist who goes on and on about how if they would simply let cops administer the chokehold like in the good old days there would be no need to beat people. He’s also a bigot. Still, I like the guy. Kurt Russell went to my high school in Thousand Oaks, right next to Simi Valley, so I know he knows how to act like a racist cocksucker. Because that is really all the town has to offer the world. Hell, he might even be one. I mean, he is a republican after all. But, he can act. At least here in Dark Blue. The rub comes when Keough just can’t stomach killing innocent people anymore. Sort of like the Marine in Sacremento who quit his job and left Iraq because he was tired of machine gunning civilians. He rats out Perry to the intensely beautiful Officer Williamson (Michael Michele) who happens to work for the stupid chief. Oh, Keough has been having an affair with Officer Williamson. Good taste, dude.

So, predictably, the clusterfuck-bomb goes off, and right as the Riots start, Van Meter tells the two crackheads to kill Perry and Perry decides to kill the two crackheads and Keough and Williamson decide to arrest the two crackheads… I won’t give it all away. If the movie gets bogged down anywhere, it is the fault of having the story take place during the Riots. Too much time and effort was given over to that part of the story and honestly it wasn’t necessary. I mean, rather than detracting from the story like it did, the movie could have easily happened after the Riots and Perry still could have given his chokehold speech. Obviously, having a white cop driving through South Central while the Riots are breaking out is going to provide all sorts of action, but I really didn’t care. I’m sure that the fact the movie “dealt” with the Los Angeles Riots (it didn’t) was a major selling point to the studio. It sucks that instead of just being able to sell a great story about a hopelessly crooked and increasingly trapped cop, Dark Blue had to get pitched as a “Riot” movie. It wasn’t. What is was, was a film that featured good acting all around, some great Ellroy cop-speak and a compelling story. In the end, Perry sees the many errors of his evil ways — a little too quickly for my taste – and in an amusing but silly scene he busts Van Meter. Part of the theme of the film is that crooked cops are the reason LA is burning. A little too naïve and overly simplistic, sure, but I stilled enjoyed Dark Blue Even the last sequence where Perry, now a reformed man, does stand and watch the city burn. Sure, the movie isn’t completely water tight, but very little is these days. Dark Blue tried, and I salute that.