Dark Blue (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Dark Blue's director, Ron Shelton, is best known for his sports films, especially the classic Bull Durham, which he directed from his own script, which was in turn based on his own experiences in the minor leagues. It is not always remembered that Shelton wrote the part of Crash Davis of the Durham Bulls for his buddy, Kurt Russell, who was actually a minor leaguer himself for a few years. Russell, like his dad Bing Russell, was both a professional ball player and a professional actor, so he seemed to be born to play "Crash". The studio overrode Shelton's casting choice and insisted on Kevin Costner, so Russell missed out on the role of a lifetime, in which he would have been playing a character based in part on invention, in part on himself and in part on his own dad.


Kailu Yu, as a stripper, is topless

Michael Michelle has a sex scene, but it offers only a look up the covers at her crotch, which is probably pantied. (It's too dark to tell)

Shelton and Russell remained friends, and they are teamed again in Dark Blue, with Shelton directing and Russell in another meaty starring role, at which he did a truly excellent job.

Dark Blue is a cop drama based on a James Ellroy story. Another Ellroy yarn formed the basis for L.A. Confidential, and the Dark Blue story follows the same trail which L.A. Confidential blazed. The characters are familiar. Only the names have been changed, as they used to say at the end of another media offering which featured the L.A. Police. There is the tough guy who does what is necessary (Russell Crowe = Kurt Russell), the more idealistic guy who wants to do the right thing, the corrupt Irish captain, and some of the same sleazebags. Many story elements are also similar - the police captain taking over the rackets, the cops framing the wrong guys for a major crime to cover up one of the captain's dirty deeds, the lead cop being set up by the captain for a bloody ambush, and so forth. Actually, the era has changed as well as the names. L.A. Confidential told the 1950's version of the story, while Dark Blue is the 1990's update.

Dark Blue is a good movie, but not on the level of L.A. Confidential. While the cop portion of the story is about equivalent to the earlier movie, the difference between the two films is that the cop portion is nearly 100% of Dark Blue's content. This film doesn't have much to lift it above the level of a routine cop flick. It is missing all the humor, the inside Hollywood sleaze, the lookalike scam, the mob connections, and the stylistic flair of L.A. Confidential. It is also missing the mystery/thriller element. In L.A. Confidential, the storyline revealed the captain's connection very slowly, so the audience had the additional pleasure of a mystery to solve. Dark Blue basically throws everything on the table early in the film, and lets the characters march to their predetermined destinations.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Widescreen letterboxed 2.35:1, and a full screen version

  • Full length commentary by the director

  • Still gallery

  • Behind the scenes featurette

Although the presentation is quite competent, and the story held my interest, the first 90 minutes of Dark Blue is quite familiar and routine. The last quarter adds a little topspin. The final chase and denouement takes place during the disturbances which followed the Rodney King verdict, and Kurt Russell is trapped deep within a poor black neighborhood. Russell must avoid the violence-bent rioters while he tries to collar the baddies in a landscape of fires, shattered shop windows, and overturned cars, with looters scurrying everywhere.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: just less than three stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3/4, BBC 3/5.

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It bombed, failing to pay back even its modest $15 million dollar budget. It grossed only $9 million domestically.


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. It is a good cop flick with dialogue which sounds like real people talking. Unlike its spiritual predecessor, L.A. Confidential, it does not have a lot of crossover appeal for wider audiences

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