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Today's Date is:

Dark Blue - Special Edition

Reviewed by: David Litton
Genre: Drama
Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, 1.33:1 fullframe
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 2.0, Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0
Language: English, French, Spanish
Subtitle: English, French, Spanish
Length: 118 min
Rating: R
Release Date: 06/24/2003
Studio: MGM Home Entertainment
Commentary: Feature commentary with director Ron Shelton
Documentaries: None
Featurettes: "Code Blue" featurette, "By the Book" featurette, "Necessary Force" featurette
Filmography/Biography: None
Interviews: None
Trailers/TV Spots: Theatrical trailer
Alternate/Deleted Scenes: None
Music Video: None
Other: Photo gallery
Cast and Crew: Kurt Russell, Scott Speedman, Michael Michele, Brendan Gleeson, Ving Rhames, Dash Mihok, Kurupt
Written By: David Ayer
Produced by: James Jacks, Sean Daniel, Caldecot Chubb, David Blocker
Directed By: Ron Shelton
Music: Terence Blanchard
The Review:

The corrupt cop thriller gets something of a make-over in Ron Shelton's "Dark Blue," a movie that may not bring anything new to the table, but sure knows how to add some spice to an already potent entree. Frontlining this edgy flick is a fierce and intelligent performance from Kurt Russell as Eldon Perry, a Los Angeles Police Department detective whose methods of bending the rules to dispense justice are just like everyday procedures for him. When he is partnered with rookie Bobby Keough (Scott Speedman), the nephew of of police chief Jack Van Meter (Brendan Gleeson), he finds that his hardcore approach to the law only serves as the fuel for an ever-raging fire that threatens the city's stability and destroys lives. ***

Written by David Ayer, the man who brought us 2001's similarly themed "Training Day," "Dark Blue" isn't concerned with its familiarity, and instead presses on with its story in a manner that is both admirable and impacting. Adding to his mixture of grit and tautness a hearty dose of racial tension, he and director Shelton further the underlying intensity while simultaneously rocking our boat with various action sequences that truly dazzle. That Ayer chooses to set these events against the backdrop of the L.A. riots in the wake of the Rodney King scandal only enhances the subconscious realization of the chain reaction that occurs when good cops do bad things they themselves consider harmless. Some may consider it a gimmicky move, but I find that it works in the film's favor. ***

And then there's Russell, who seems to have been born to play this role. Handling the character of Perry with all the snap and crackle of Denzel Washington's Oscar-winning turn as Alonzo Harris, he manages to make Perry not only someone that we fear as a result of his unpredictable nature, but also someone we can feel a sense of hope for, as his morality begins to surface. It's a memorable character, brought to life by an unforgettable performance. With a strong supporting cast, favorable action, and a plot that puts its audience through the wringer and then back again, "Dark Blue" manages to feel fresh and alive even as we become increasingly aware of its familiar genre roots.

Image and Sound

A very nice transfer, with only a handful of blemishes. The film's 2.35:1 image is anamorphically enhanced, and features a stunning display of clarity, especially in exterior shots that take place in the city streets. Edges are sharp if hampered by some enhancement halos, while small object detail is striking. Color saturation is pitch perfect, with vivid, excellent hues and accurate fleshtones throughout. Contrast is also very pleasing, even if it does give way to some noticeable artifacts in a few minor instances; shadow detail is good, and blacks are rock-solid throughout. The source print is in fine shape, albeit with some visible dirt marks in places. Pretty good! *** If the image is less than stellar, however, the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix makes up for it with an aggressive use of the entire soundfield that is sure to please. The gritty hip-hop music and score receive ample ambiance in the surrounds and the low end, while sound effects are sharply recorded and imaged accurately for optimum effect. The .1 LFE is engaged for a good bit of the movie, and sounds clean and efficient, while dialogue always sounds its best. Supreme!

The Extras

After the commentary we move on to "Internal Affairs," which houses three featurettes. "Code Blue" features interviews with Shelton, writer David Ayer, cinematographer Barry Peterson, and several others, including some of the principle cast members. We're introduced to the conception of each character, as well as the casting choices made before shooting, then progress into the cinematography, where certain scenes are broken down by how they were photographed. In "By the Book," we see how the production design team scouted out various locations, as working within the limited budget didn't provide for the creation of sets. And with "Necessary Force," we hear from technical advisor Bob Souza, who talks about his work with the Special Investigation Section, and the logistics involved in working with such a unit. In short, all of these are somewhat brief, but always informative. ***

The disc closes out with a photo gallery full of behind-the-scenes stills and production photos, and the film's theatrical trailer. For those who saw the movie, or even those who think that Kurt Russell's name is enough to merit a viewing, "Dark Blue" won't disappoint.

Commentary Accompanying the movie is an audio commentary with director Ron Shelton, which is a pretty good listen during which you'll learn some interesting facts about the production. Shelton recalls that the entire shoot took 44 days, with four weeks of preparations, while also making comments on the opening sequence, which is intercut with actual footage of the Rodney King beating. Laments over casting and writing are also heard here, and the interest level is always there.
Final Words: Although it didn't do much business at the box office, "Dark Blue" is being released by MGM in a somewhat sizeable special edition that should get the job done for those willing.

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June 24, 2003