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By Herb Kane | March 10, 2003

I went to “Dark Blue” with no big expectations and I left the theater feeling no different. While Kurt Russell is interesting throughout the film, there are simply better vehicles for bad cop stories and that’s a big disadvantage for the filmmakers.

“Dark Blue” is a movie about a corrupt police detective, Eldon Perry (Kurt Russell). The story takes place in Los Angeles during 1992, a time period when riots broke out following the acquittal of four white officers who beat up black motorist Rodney King. Perry is part of an elite group assigned to clean up the streets with any dirty method he chooses. He mentors his partner, Bobby Keough (Scott Speedman), teaching him the wicked ways of bringing bad guys to justice.

William Arnold (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) said, “Ron Shelton’s ‘Dark Blue’ is another harrowingly cynical dirty-cop movie in the recent tradition of ‘Training Day’ and ‘Narc.’ Yet it’s so much more complex, engrossing and satisfying than those films that the comparison is not entirely fair.”

More engrossing and satisfying, William? It’s only a step above “Training Day” – if that. The first comparison that came to my mind was “The Shield,” an FX channel TV show about a corrupt police team. It was hard for me to really get involved with “Dark Blue” because “The Shield” is so much better – and it’s on TV! Michael Chiklis’ Vic Mackey is a far more intriguing character and the stories are better written. Other critics agree:

— “Some might say that ‘Dark Blue’ is ‘The Shield,’ ripped off the TV and tossed onto the big screen. In some regards, it is. However, ‘The Shield’ is a lot more entertaining and engrossing.” Staci Layne Wilson (

— “Though Perry doesn’t cross the major line that Vic Mackey does on ‘The Shield,’ he’s much less interesting because his sense of right and wrong isn’t explored.” Mr. Cranky (

— “In the wake of TV’s powerhouse ‘The Shield,’ ‘Dark Blue’ comes off as something of a retread, with little of ‘The Shield’s’ electric fury, edgy camera work or deft characterizations. It doesn’t even match the FX series in terms of shock value.”

target=”_blank”>Connie Ogle (Miami Herald)

Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) said, “‘Dark Blue’ is not a great movie, but it has moments that go off the meter and find visceral impact. The characters driving through the riot-torn streets of Los Angeles provide some of them, and the savage, self-hating irony of Russell’s late dialogue provides the rest.”

The riot scenes created uneasiness in me and the thought of driving through streets infested with violence all around is unnerving. Though the Rodney King incident is old news now, the film transported you back to that time and did an excellent job portraying the terror that engulfed those neighborhoods – especially as we watch Perry pursue bad guys in the midst of all this chaos. Kurt Russell makes this movie worth watching. He gives a very good performance, despite the weak plot. Most critics agreed:

— “Russell’s approach to the role combines combustible rage, calculated cynicism, and a deeply buried core of humanity striving for redemption.” James Berardinelli (

— “Whatever appeal this film has is due to his ability to present Eldon Perry as a fully fleshed out character – warts and all.” Michael Elliott (Movie Parables)

— “Russell gives the performance of his life.” Sean Burns (Philadelphia Weekly)

David Grove ( said, “I also had a problem with the ending where Russell’s character, about to be promoted, decides to spill the beans and clear his soul regarding his illegal activities.”

I think the idea of Perry confessing was a realistic approach, David. Remember how he was tormented by his wife leaving him (she explains in great detail why – a very good scene), the death of a fellow detective and the concern for his son? All this caused him to look in the mirror and face his own demons. The problem I had with ending is it wasn’t that powerful. But then again, neither was this movie as a whole.

James Berardinelli summed the movie up best: “Russell is the reason to go to the theater. He will continue to hold your attention when things around him – like the storyline – lose steam and credibility.”

“Dark Blue” will be a good rental someday, but it’s not worthy of the silver screen – especially when TV shows like “The Shield” beat this movie up so bad it should be called “Black and Blue.”


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