Dark Blue
Shades of incompetence
By Jon Popick

Forget this movie. Wait for Overboard II.

Silly goose. For some reason, you'd think that whole post-9/11 love affair with the police was going to last more than a year or two. It seems we're back to spitting and hurling things at the very same men in blue that we were applauding and saluting after the Twin Towers came down. Don't believe it? Look no further than the rabble-rousing new film Dark Blue, which, in addition to sticking it to the law, takes it to a whole new level of offensive by carefully painting every white cop as evil and corrupt, while each black officer practically walks on water.

Like the far superior Narc, one of Blue's first scenes involves a young LAPD detective being interrogated by Internal Affairs for a recent shooting-gone-bad. The detective is Bobby Keough (Scott Speedman, Felicity), and he is hauled from the fire by his fast-talking partner, the cowboy-ish Eldon Perry, Jr. (Kurt Russell, Vanilla Sky). We first get the idea that the LAPD is one big Boys' Club when Keough is roughly grilled by panel member and deputy police chief Arthur Holland (Ving Rhames, Undisputed), who becomes the sole angry, dissenting vote.

More proof quickly surfaces as Perry is promoted from sergeant to lieutenant following the shooting, which we later learn was a big cover-up for Keough's greenness. Turns out Keough is the nephew of his boss, Jack Van Meter (Brendan Gleeson, Gangs of New York), who also worked with Perry's dad back in the day. Apparently it really is one big Boys' Club, with one racist, alcoholic, rule-breaking elicitor of confessions via beatdown covering for the other, and then promoting him.

Meanwhile, Holland knows-he just knows-the aforementioned shooting didn't go down the way Perry and Keough said it did. Of course, he doesn't have a lick of evidence, but that doesn't stop him from declaring his own personal war against anyone with a skin tone lighter than Bryant Gumbel's. To add a twist to the story, Holland's underling, Sgt. Beth Williamson (Michael Michele, How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days), has been having a three-week affair with Keough, yet neither knows the other's name. Jeez, when was the last time any of you had sex once without knowing your partner's name, let alone several times over nearly a month?

Blue and its writer, David Ayer (Training Day), think the film can get away with the incendiary material by setting it the week before the Rodney King-inspired riots in late April 1992 (back when cell phones were the size of your shoe). This is the old LAPD, and they were really bad guys, as evidenced by the bulk of the story revolving around a convenience store shooting-slash-murder that epitomizes the stereotypes of rogue cops who are completely out of control.

Even if you can get past the racism and anti-cop message, you have to admit Blue really makes you appreciate how good Ethan Hawke was in Training Day. Speedman is pretty transparent here, and Russell's decent performance makes you realize any old fool could have played the scenery-chewing bad guy in Training Day-even frigging Snake Plissken. Blue is more than a whole lot like Training Day, though the former tacks on almost every police cliché as it approaches its climax, which induces just as much eye-rolling as the latter.

Blue was directed by Ron Shelton (Play It To the Bone), who hasn't made a non-sports film since Blaze (he's done boxing twice, baseball twice, basketball twice, and golf once). The real sad development here is that Ayer's script was based on a story by James Ellroy that he created specifically for this film (and, supposedly, just for Russell). If anyone were going to get a film about modern LA cops right, it would be the LA Confidential author, correct? Wrong. This is cleverly disguised crap with a decent cast.