Running Time: 118 mins
Hard action, hard hitting and hard sounding, this is a very interesting film about police work and police corruption in Los Angeles. The setting is 1991. The film opens with footage of the Rodney King beatings by a group of police. The action of the film takes place during the trial of these police and their subsequently being found not guilty. This acquittal sparked off riots and looting as the African American population expressed anger at the verdict.
The story is by James Ellroy, author of another book about police corruption, LA Confidential, which was made into a very successful and Oscar-winning film. Dark Blue is even more gritty, focussing as it does on a staunch, 'redneck' officer played by Kurt Russell in one of his best performances. His grandfather was a policeman when Los Angeles was a frontier town. His father was a respected officer. He has tried to live up to his father's expectations but his views and his disgust at criminals have taken him into a dangerous vigilante path, especially under directions from his father's partner, a bent chief of police, played all too believably by Brendan Gleeson.
Things come to a head when his apprentice partner (Scott Speedman) is investigated for a fatal shooting during surveillance. Ramrodly upright officer, Ving Rhames, who has ambitions to be the first African American police chief, is unrelenting in his pursuit of corruption, especially in the context of the King incident.
This makes for strong courtroom style drama as well as the portrayal of violence in the streets and the manipulation of evidence to frame known criminals and their cold-blooded execution. When it becomes too much for his partner and he himself becomes a target (as well as his wife leaving him), Russell has to reassess his life and values and make a decision with integrity.
Impressive direction from Ron Shelton, better known for his sports films including Bull Durham and The Tin Cup.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is the International President of SIGNIS: the World Association for Catholic Communicators and an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.