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Dark Blue

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Jan
Dark Blue
from Film Forum, 02/27/03

Dark Blue takes place during those volatile days in 1991 when the Rodney King trial and the L.A. riots had the LAPD fighting for their own reputation. Kurt Russell plays Eldon Perry, a racist detective who must tutor a rookie on police tactics while investigating a multiple homicide. As they close in on the killers, Perry becomes troubled by where the clues are leading him, and he is forced to confront his own prejudice and past indiscretions.

Gerri Pare (Catholic News Service) says that the movie "scores as a film noir that is about more than color—an introspective look at urban police work and those who wander from the straight and narrow with disastrous consequences." The film's star receives high praise: "Cocky and spouting repellent opinions about social justice, Russell transforms his cowboy cop incrementally into a man forced by events to confront his demons and accept responsibility for crimes he had heretofore easily justified. His dynamic portrayal is central to keeping the busy story focused."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says, "Russell's performance may take you by surprise. He starts off competently enough, but as the film progresses, so does the complexity of his character. Whatever appeal this film has is due to his ability to present Eldon Perry as a fully fleshed out character—warts and all."

But Tom Snyder (Movieguide) argues, "Russell is not always convincing in his role … partly saddled by uneven writing and pedestrian direction. Ultimately, Dark Blue's moral elements are undercut by its political correctness and its excessive foul language."

Phil Boatwright calls it "depressing and inflammatory. It avoids presenting a representation of those who don those blue uniforms in an effort to fight injustice. The film suggests that the majority of white cops are bigots and crooks, while all minorities are merely put upon." Similarly, Bret Willis (Christian Spotlight) warns readers, "In short, it appears the writers have taken a serious issue and portrayed it as even worse than it really is, thus potentially widening the rifts between blacks and whites and between police and public for no worthwhile purpose. This makes the film very dangerous. I see no redeeming quality in it, and don't recommend it to anyone."

Bob Smithouser (Focus on the Family) would prefer this drama about cops, crime, and corruption refrain from portraying so much corruption. "Sex. Obscenities. Brutality. That's reason enough to give this police story a thumbs down."

Mainstream critics found it to be a mixed bag. Ebert says, "Dark Blue is a formula picture in its broad outlines, but a very particular film in its characters and details. It has something to say and an urgent way of saying it."

Andrew Sarris (New York Observer) says the film falls short of genre greats like Chinatown and L.A. Confidential, but he praises Russell's "mature and charismatic portrayal of a modern hero who starts out as an antihero, and rises from the ashes of corruption and dissipation to find redemption by repudiating everything that his admired predecessors in the hierarchy of that secular religion, law enforcement, once represented."

from Film Forum, 03/06/03

While Dark Blue (United Artists) is not technically a war film, it examines racial conflicts that erupted surrounding the Rodney King trial in L.A. David Bruce (Hollywood Jesus) summarizes its main theme: "Sometimes it takes awhile for us to realize fully our own racism and break with such family traditions. We all have some degree of prejudice within us. We need to be free. Dark Blue is a story of that journey to be free."

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