Dark Blue

2003, Movie, R, 118 mins

Review

DARK BLUE
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If this brutal tale of crime and corruption within the upper ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department feels like an updated retelling of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, there's good reason. Both stories spring from the dark mind of American crime writer James Ellroy, who's found a niche chronicling the dark times of the LAPD's wayward gunslingers. And while David Ayer's script lacks the deft plotting of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, it has something most thrillers sorely lack: a conscience. Set in April 1992, the film unfolds over the five days leading up to the acquittal of the four white LAPD police officers accused of beating Rodney King. Rookie detective Bobby Keough (Scott Speedman) has only been with the elite Special Investigations Squad for three weeks, but he's already been called before a shooting board for his questionable use of deadly force while apprehending a criminal. His exoneration, however, was never really in doubt: Keough's uncle is fearsome SIS head Jack Van Meter (Brendan Gleeson), and Keough's partner is hard drinking Sergeant Eldon Perry (a frighteningly convincing Kurt Russell), a third generation cop who lives in the long shadow of his late, trigger-happy father. The only board member who doubts Keogh's story is Arthur Holland (Ving Rhames), the black assistant chief of police who's long since lost his faith in the LAPD. He asks his assistant, Sergeant Beth Williamson (Michael Michele), to comb Perry's file, unaware that Williamson is sleeping with Keough on the sly. Van Meter, meanwhile, assigns his two bad boys to a gruesome quadruple homicide at a Koreatown liquor store. Something about the case stinks: The storeowner (Dana Lee) claims nothing was stolen, even though it's obvious a safe has been ripped out of an upstairs wall, and Van Meter is pressuring Keogh and Perry to pin the whole thing on a couple of patsies and call it a day. It's not hard to see where the whole rolling ball of corruption is headed, but adding to the growing tension is the countdown to the King verdict and the ensuing riots that will serve as the backdrop for the film's climax: a spectacularly staged car chase through the burning streets of South Central. Exploitative? Perhaps, but forgivable. Director Ron Shelton is determined to understand the riots as the product of a poisonous climate that had long existed between the people of South Central and a police department ostensibly committed to protecting and serving their community — a miasma of mutual hatred, fear and mistrust that, Ellroy contends, extends at least as far back as the era of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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