Lifting the lid on LAPD brutality and corruption
DIRECTED BY Ron Shelton
STARRING Kurt Russell, Scott Speedman, Brendan Gleeson, Ving Rhames
Opens May 2, Cert 15, 118 mins
From a story by James Ellroy, and scripted by Training Day’s David Ayer, Dark Blue is dark stuff indeed. Set against the background of the Rodney King beatings and subsequent LA riots in 1992, the film is a frank depiction of the casual brutality and corruption among the LAPD during that turbulent time. The movie takes the lid off the force. “Is it possible to have a secret in the Department?” asks a police wife. Everybody has something on someone else and will use it, kill witnesses, take someone out as a favour for upstairs.
At the centre of this sty is Detective Eldon Perry (Russell), who does the dirty work for Special Investigations Squad supremo Jack Van Meter (Gleeson). As the film opens, Perry is breaking in his new partner, Van Meter’s nephew, Bobby Keough (Speedman). Perry-charming, roguish?shows Bobby how to break the rules to get the job done, literally how to get away with murder. The plot hangs around the robbery of a South Central grocery store, organised by Van Meter. The thugs who carried out the robbery fucked up and left four people dead, so Van Meter sends in Perry and Keough for damage limitation. But Perry and Keough are being watched by assistant police chief Holland (Rhames), who wants to bring down Van Meter. Everything comes to a head as Los Angeles erupts into violence. The acting is uniformly good here. Gleeson, in particular, is fine, switching believably from blarney bonhomie to threats. But this is Russell’s film through and through. It’s easily his best work for a decade. Perry may appear a back-slapping good ol’ boy, the last cowboy left in LA, but his principles are completely compromised, and beneath his swaggering exterior he knows it. As a result, he’s consumed by a ferocious self-loathing?you can see it in the creased lines on his face and the bottles which collect on the floor of his motel room. He yearns for redemption. Shelton?a cracking director of sports movies like Bull Durham and White Men Can’t Jump?handles the material solidly, but lacks flair. The indictment of the LAPD is true to Ellroy, but the movie fails to stir much indignation.