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Dark Blue
cast: Kurt Russell, Scott Speedman, Ving Rhames, Brendan Gleeson, and Lolita Davidovich

director: Ron Shelton

118 minutes (15) 2002
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Momentum DVD Region 2 rental
Also available to rent on video
[released 13 October]

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
1992: while Los Angeles waits with baited breath for the verdict in the trial of four white officers accusing of beating black motorist Rodney King, the LAPD has other things on its mind. A trigger-happy veteran and his idealistic young partner are assigned a robbery turned multiple shooting - but when they find the real culprits, their crooked boss Jack Van Meter orders them to frame a couple of hoods instead.
   But with Holland, an ambitious black officer one step away from making chief of police, already on their case for a dubious shooting, this may prove a cover-up too far. Soon everyone in the Department is scrabbling to protect themselves by getting rid of witnesses - civilians, and officers... When 'not guilty' verdicts are declared and South Central L.A. explodes into violence, our heroes are caught right in the middle - and not everyone will get out alive...
   With shades of L.A. Confidential in its central plot, it's no surprise to discover that Dark Blue originated with novelist James Ellroy. But the King case gives the proceedings a distinct menace, echoed in the unthinking racism of many officers, and an explosive framework for the final showdown. Though many elements of the plot are potentially clichéd, strong writing and performances ultimately make this a decidedly above average police thriller.
   Kurt Russell excels as the alcoholic self-styled 'gunslinger' whose conscience just won't stretch any further, and Scott Speedman gives a fine performance as his poster-boy partner, trying to live up to family expectations and keep his morals intact. Dramatic heavyweights Brendan Gleeson, as Van Meter, and Ving Rhames, as the coolly immovable Holland, keep up the pressure on our flawed heroes, and the slick direction balances action and personal drama extremely well. Overall, Dark Blue is a gripping drama with plenty of action and a genuine surprise or two, that really deserves a wider audience than it received in the cinema. Well worth the rental price.
   DVD extras are slight - trailer, stills, a commentary, and brief 'making of' segments - but do highlight what a terrific job Shelton did of recreating early 1990s' L.A. on virtually no budget.
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