Dark Blue
starring Kurt Russell and Ving Rhames
2 stars

review by Stephen Notley

With a crappy, generic title like Dark Blue, it's hard to take Dark Blue seriously. It's so cheap and shitty, that title, such a rehash of familiar words and phrases without the animating spark of originality, so easily misremembered as Deep Blue mere minutes after leaving the theatre.

Perhaps you can see where I'm going with this. As points the title, so goes the film; Dark Blue is a pretty crappy movie. The commericials promise a cross between L.A. Confidential and Training Day, and that's true, but the commercials don't mention the slack-assedness of it all, the cheapness of its filming or the slightly desperate casting of its star, Kurt Russell.

You may have heard from the commercial that this is a breakthrough role for Kurt Russell, that his acting goes to a whole new level in this film. In fact, the opposite is true. I like Kurt Russell for movies like The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China, but here, in his role as negro-hating, suspect-assasinating cop Eldon Perry, it feels like he's doing a canned Jack Burton from BTiLC. It doesn't feel like the character so much as it feels like Kurt Russell was the biggest star they could get, so the director kept screaming for more Kurt Russell like Chris Walken screamed for more cowbell on SNL. Rather than a performance, we get a lotta Kurt Russellisms, with his lackadaisical drawl and oafish self-confidence, not to metion a couple of totally over done yelling scenes, looking too much like Kurt Russell to look like the guy who's supposed to be in this movie.

But Kurt Russell is only one clunky part in a movie filled with clunkisms. The dialogue tends to swing toward cheese; lines like "Your blood should be spilling here, not his!" and  "I built this city --on bullets!" tend to make Dark Blue come off almost like a smarmy parody of a cop movie than a serious film. The plot is a jumble of overcooked cliches, and the movie can't seem to decide if it's following Kurt Russell or his wimpy pussy of a partner Scott Speedman. There's a bunch of different things going on, and the film seems to have way too much time for its boring little subplots and not enough time for its main plot, whichever that one is.

Written by Training Day writer David Ayer from a story from crime-fiction emperor James Ellroy, Dark Blue has some good stuff in it. It's set in the days leading up to the acquittal of the cops who beat Rodney King, and it does journeyman service in showing corrupt L.A. cops routinely picking out bad guys to pin stuff on and murder in order to close cases. There's some shockingly sudden violence. Kurt Russell does a big Dramatic Speech at the end indicting three generations of L.A. cops. And, as much as Kurt Russell is a big ol' slice of ham in this movie, Ving Rhames totally dominates the screen every time he shows up. Packed into his deputy chief uniform, he looks like a sausage about to split its skin on a campfire. He's a monolith in this movie, turning up the interest level every time he opens his mouth, rolling lines of dialogue like bowling balls across the set. It gives me chills to think about the kind of menace Rhames could have brought to Daredevil's Kingpin, but at least we get to see him here. In a film fillled with overworked speeches and dopey contrivances, Rhames is the rock.