Dark Blue is a cinematic adaptation of the James Ellroy (who also wrote L.A. Confidential) novel Plague Season written for the screen by David Ayer, the same screenwriter who wrote Training Day. And much like Training Day, Dark Blue is a story about corrupt cops and raises the questions of what's more important – following the law or bringing those who would break it to justice.
Kurt Russell stars as Eldon Perry, a cop in Los Angeles' S.I.S. (Special Investigations Section) who, at the beginning of the movie, has been called in front of the Internal Affairs board along with his young new partner, Bobby Keough (Scott Speedman), to give the details of a recent incident where Bobby apparently shot and killed a criminal they were pursuing. We soon find out that it wasn't Bobby, but Eldon who had shot the criminal – and while this may not seem like that big of a deal, it is the audience's first hint at the methods that the police take to cover-up certain aspects of incidents and arrests.
The events of Dark Blue take place five days before the Los Angeles riots that occurred after the trial of the cops who assaulted Rodney King in 1992, so the audience is aware during the movie that all hell is about to break loose in the city. It is against this backdrop that the story of the movie unfolds, as Eldon and Bobby are asked by their superior officer and mentor, Jack Van Meter (Brendon Gleeson), to investigate a multiple murder and robbery, where two men stole a safe and killed a number of victims at a convenience store. However, it turns out that Jack himself is involved in the crime, and we get to watch as Bobby finds out about how cops cover things up and we also get to see Eldon at first follow his mentor blindly and then slowly start to question what he is doing and what he has done in the past.
Also in the mix is Arthur Holland (Ving Rhames), a black officer looking to move up in the department and determined to bring Eldon and Bobby down because he suspects they lied to Internal Affairs about what really happened. Arthur enlists the aid of fellow officer Beth Williamson (Michael Michele), who not only has a history with Arthur, but has been seeing Bobby – although she did not know he was involved in an Internal Affairs investigation.
While much of Dark Blue is familiar, especially to those who have seen Training Day, what I liked about the film was that there is more of an internal struggle for Kurt Russell's character than there was for Denzel Washington's character in Training Day. While Washington's cop seemed beyond redemption, there still seems to be a small glimmer of hope that Eldon Perry can redeem himself, and that premise, along with Kurt Russell's solid performance (one of the best I have seen from him) are what keeps Dark Blue an intense and dramatic movie.
The video transfer of the DVD is pretty average, and just a touch disappointing for such a recent theatrical release. The movie is presented in 2:35:1 amamorphic widescreen on side A, and a full-frame version is available on the flip side of the DVD. There are noticeable points where dirt or "flecks" are evident, although these are few and far between. This isn't a horrible transfer by any means, but it's obvious that MGM didn't go out of their way to provide the best presentation possible.
The audio is far stronger that the video in terms of quality, and the 5.1 Surround Track on this disc sounds pretty good, although there is a bit of disparity between the music and "action" sounds of the track and the dialogue. To explain a little better – if you have your speakers set so the dialogue is at a reasonable level, get ready to be blasted with sound every time a major shootout or other bit of action occurs on-screen. The disc also offers Spanish Stereo Surround and French Stereo Surround tracks, as well as English, French and Spanish subtitles for the hearing impaired.
The extras on this disc include an Audio Commentary Track with director Ron Shelton, that is informative, if not particularly that entertaining. There is a three-part Internal Affairs section on the DVD, which is made up of three featurettes. The first, "Code Blue", runs about 18 minutes and is an overall behind the scenes look at the making of the movie. The second, "By The Book", is a seven minute segment on production design and the sets of the movie. The final featurette, "Necessary Force", covers the research that the filmmakers took to make sure that the L.A.P.D. procedures, weapons, uniforms, etc., were as accurate as possible in the movie. These featurettes can be watched individually or all at once.
Other extras include a Photo Gallery consisting of about two dozen pictures; the Theatrical Trailer for Dark Blue, plus trailers for the DVD releases of Platoon, Rocky, Die Another Day and a promo trailer for MGM DVDs as a whole. Also, those looking for a good Easter Egg will want to make sure and highlight the shield that appears on the Special Features page. Clicking on it will take you to a short featurette entitled "The Fire Next Time", in which the cast and crew of Dark Blue discuss the possibility of another riot in Los Angeles happening in the future.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Fans of Kurt Russell, police drama (particularly Training Day), or just good, solid acting will want to check out Dark Blue. The story, while somewhat predictable at times, is elevated by a fine cast, led by Russell – who gives a memorable performance here. My only suggestion is that those who haven't yet seen the movie may want to rent it first to see if it's something they may want to watch more than once. If so, the DVD provides enough quality in both transfer and bonus material to make Dark Blue a worthwhile addition to your DVD library.