Kurt Russell gave one of his career best performances in Ron Shelton’s shamefully neglected cop film Dark Blue. Maybe it was because the film painted such an ugly, downbeat portrayal of the LAPD without any seriously commercial elements to balance the tone or resolution that it failed to connect with audiences (it grossed $12 million back in February 2003). Shelton’s twisty film, which was co-written by David Ayer (Training Day, Fury, Suicide Squad) and legendary crime novelist James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential, American Tabloid), involves police corruption, cover-ups, and murder, with the action set during the volatile final days leading up to the verdict in the Rodney King trial, with the narrative extending into the nightmarish rioting and looting that befell the city after the police officer’s controversial acquittal. Russell is fantastic as a morally corrupt cop who only knows how to play by his own set of rules, while the entire film carries a distinct whiff of retro cynicism and respect for 70’s cinema, all the way up to the grim finale. The supporting cast is phenomenal, with Scott Speedman, Brendan Gleeson, Ving Rhames, Jonathan Banks, Dash Mihok, Lolita Davidovich, and Michael Michele all offering vivid performances, while cinematographer Barry Petersen brought a gritty visual style that smartly utilized the hand-held camera aesthetic. Terence Blanchard’s serious, almost mournful score seals the deal. Less an action film and more of a character study, Dark Blue deserves to finally find a larger audience, and will likely be greatly admired by fans of this particular genre and the old-school stylings of Sidney Lumet when he was cranking out these scuzzy, visceral pieces of filmmaking.

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