ninth symphony films - movie reviews

DARK BLUE (2003)

DIRECTOR  -  ron shelton

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  action

LENGTH  -  113 minutes

RELEASED  -  21 february 2003


OFFICIAL SITE  -  dark blue

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $5,000,000
dark blue - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from dark blue at

buy the dvd from dark blue at

a police drama set in the days before the verdict in the rodney king beating case.

originally titled "the plague season."


picture from dark blue

picture from dark blue

picture from dark blue


two out of four possible stars

Owing to a group of very fine performances, the story and editing flaws in Dark Blue can probably be overlooked by most viewers and the film might disappoint only those out of the film's intended audience. The demographic targets notwithstanding though, Kurt Russell gives an outstanding performance as crooked cop, "Eldon Perry," making the best of dialogue that doesn't exactly sparkle on the page, but still comes to life through Russell's effort. As one of the more underappreciated actors of his generation, Russell proves again that he can take a role which might have otherwise proved to be a lackluster character and turn it into a character who makes the entire film worth seeing to its conclusion.

With only a few feature film performances in the last six or so years, Russell seemed to have been fading away from the public's eye, but it is a relief to see that he is still interested in making his characters come to life. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Ving Rhames's performance. As one of the main antagonists in the film, Rhames's performance as "Deputy Chief Arthur Holland" is the result of owning a character that isn't as fleshed out as it should have been. A significant portion of the film is spent on defining the "character" of the characters and it feels too often that Holland's character was placed in the film more as a mouth-piece for the antagonist of the film, rather than as a worthy foil for Russell's character.

In the usual tract of police dramas, Dark Blue analyzes each of its characters, makes each less than sympathetic, and then forces the audience to choose allegiance between a set of people who aren't always worthy of respect or empathy. Everyone in this film is a little dirty (or a lot) and it is quite a tribute to the actors' abilities that every character isn't as hated as he or she should be by the end credits. With the load of racial hatred and bigotry and corruption that Eldon Perry has supported throughout his entire life, it would seem impossible to feel any warmth toward the man, yet in his final scenes, it's not hard to understand how Perry became the man he did.

Probably the only character in the entire film that won't receive any compassion from the audience is "Jack Van Meter," played by Brendan Gleeson in what can only be termed a scary performance. As one of the most powerful men in the Los Angeles police department, Van Meter is a force to be reckoned with and Gleeson's portrayal of the immoral cop is an impressive one. Scott Speedman also plays a strong, conflicted character as "Bobby Keough," Russell's new partner and the nephew of Jack Van Meter. The turmoil his character has to undergo is intense and it should be a credit to the screenwriters that they were able to create such an interesting cast of characters.

Though they weren't always top of their game in every single scene (the dialogue isn't always the freshest), they still did well in creating some complex characters for some worthy actors. Where the film trips sometimes is in its story and dialogue. Though the characters and the actors who portray them will doubtlessly keep the audience intrigued through the entire film, but the actors had to try too hard to make their performances the mainstay of the film. Although the film takes place in Los Angeles and has been compared to Training Day, the locale is one of the only similarities between these two films.

Though both boast fine performances, Training Day is a more graphic film and trumps Dark Blue on that factor in most cases. Of course, the riot scenes depicting the violence that occurred in Los Angeles after the reading of the Rodney King verdict is portrayed with a good eye for art direction and cinematography, so perhaps the graphic nature of Dark Blue lies in those riots, rather than in bloodshed. Though Dark Blue won't appeal to all audiences (children especially), for fans of police dramas and graphic dramas in general, the film is a powerful experience. This film has not the plot complexity of fellow crime drama LA Confidential for example, but the characters are certainly filled with enough dimension to fully interest viewers.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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