the writing credit on dark blue is interesting. The "story" David Ayer based his script on is an original screenplay written by novelist James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential) some years ago.Given that it's set against the four-day wait for the Rodney King verdict in 1992, it's probably even older than Ayer's original script for Training Day, which was written in the mid-90s, five years before it was produced.
Both films are about rogue cops, and the important difference isn't the colour of their protagonists; the most important colour is blue, not black or white. While Denzel Washington's hard-charging narc in Training Day operates with the winking acceptance of the higher-ups in the departmental power structure, Kurt Russell's SIS (special investigations section) Sergeant Eldon Perry is wired into a structure that doesn't just accept his blurring of the lines but runs him as, in essence, a black ops specialist.
This, I suspect, comes from the original material, since Ellroy's had a lifelong fascination with the LAPD as a toxic corporate culture where everyone has guns. The in-your-face contemporaneity of the dialogue sounds like Ayer, who grew up in South Central L.A.
As the LAPD waits for the King verdict, Perry and his partner, Bobby Keough (Scott Speedman), face an investigation of their shooting of an apparently armed suspect. The largely white investigating board seems sympathetic, though Deputy Chief Holland (Ving Rhames) does not. Perry, we learn, a third-generation cop on the verge of promotion to lieutenant, is tied into the power structure, and his boss (Brendan Gleeson), who was Perry's father's street partner, has gone way beyond the dark side.
The film hinges on Keough's moral crisis. (Will he become like his partner?) Perry's life collapses in on itself as his marriage fails, Holland begins an investigation to bring him down and his own boss finally turns on him in self-protection.
Director Ron Shelton, a specialist in sports movies (Bull Durham, Tin Cup), has a feel for the sociology of the masculine enclave and is very good with actors. He's one of the few directors to pry credibly human performances from Kevin Costner.
In Russell, Rhames and Gleeson he has much better actors to work with, and the film crackles with their energy. And his recreation of the opening moments of the 1992 riots is sharp and atmospheric.
Dark Blue may be too close to Training Day, but in a time of over-inflated comic book and special effects pictures, we can't afford to dismiss honest genre craftsmanship. firstname.lastname@example.org
DARK BLUE directed by Ron Shelton, written by David Ayer from a story by James Ellroy, produced by David Blocker, Caldecot Chubb, Sean Daniel and James Jacks, with Kurt Russell, Ving Rhames, Scott Speedman, Brendan Gleeson and Michael Michele. 116 minutes. An MGM release. Opens Friday (February 21). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 68. Rating: NNN