Perhaps the funniest movie of 2001, Training Day got most of its comic punch from the explosively silly performance of Denzel Washington. Shouting, sputtering and spitting blood, Washington got 400 percent of his daily fiber allowance just from the scenery he chewed. It was a performance of such comic excess that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tossed one of their little bald-man statues at him, which, I believe, he immediately ate.
The problem with casting Washington in the lead, though, was that he is considered a serious actor, and so the film was taken seriously by the literal-minded masses who think "irony" is the quality of being made of iron. Attempting to correct that problem, Dark Blue puts Kurt Russell in the role of Cop Over The Edge.
Kurt Russell has the distinction of being the last B-movie superstar. It's hard to think of him as a serious actor, what with his work in such camp classics as Escape From New York, Soldier and Goldie Hawn. In a shocking act of humility, Russell even played sidekick to Sylvester Stallone in Tango and Cash. That's pretty much tantamount to playing vice president to Dan Quayle, and it really shows what a good sport Russell is.
So, in a movie like Dark Blue, where characters shout for no reason and people say things like "your whore is dead," Russell is right at home. He plays Sgt. Eldon Perry, part of the LAPD's Special Investigations Squad. What makes them so special is that they like to kill people and steal their money.
Sgt. Perry is particularly good at the killing part, because if there's one thing he hates, it's bad guys who are still alive. Unfortunately, he's been teamed with rookie cop Bobby Keough (Scott Speedman), who hasn't yet gotten the hang of the whole "shoot first, refuse to answer questions later," strategy.
Meanwhile, Bobby Keough is having a double-secret affair with another cop whose name he doesn't even know. That's right: It's so secret he doesn't even know who he's having it with. In a stroke of bad luck and outrageous script writing, he happens to be having it with the assistant to the very police chief who's investigating the evil crimes committed by his squad.
The most evil member of the squad is its chief, Jack Van Meter, who is played by Brendan Gleeson. Gleeson is actually a good actor, which makes him a little out of place in a film that basically looks like Grand Theft Auto meets Police Academy 5: The Horkening. Even odder is that Gleeson doesn't cover his Irish accent, which makes him essentially a 1950s New York City cop who has magically been transplanted to Los Angeles by the power of cinematic stereotyping, because, you know, all the old-time cops are Irish.
Playing worse cop to Russell's bad cop, Gleeson not only kills criminals and takes their money, but he actually encourages them to get started on the life of crime in the first place, which is a good idea, given his business model, but a bad idea in the moral sense of the word "bad."
All of this, of course, is under investigation by the One Good Cop who is going to take on The System. Ving Rhames plays the good cop, Deputy Chief Arthur Holland, whose assistant is getting it on with Special Investigations rookie Bobby Keough. When Bobby finds out who he's having an affair with, things get even more hackneyed, and lots of people start yelling and shooting and confessing things in the kind of emotional scenes that you only see in cop movies where somebody's partner gets killed.
This movie would have worked better if it hadn't seen a need to get all serious, but it did, and the ending is as boring as a 16-inch drill press. However, right before the very, very, very long monologue that signals that it's time to put on your coat and throw out your popcorn residue, there's a groovy action sequence that takes place during the Rodney King riots of 1992 that's essentially a video-game version of some of the dopier sequences from Kurt Russell's one screenwriting credit, Escape From L.A.
While it hardly seems respectful to set a chase sequence in the midst of an actual historic event that devastated the lives of thousands, it is a really cool chase sequence--one of the best I've seen of late, actually. It's perfectly shot and designed so you always know what's happening even as dozens of rioters flood the screen. Kudos to director Ron Shelton on that one.
In the end, Dark Blue is mostly funny enough to be entertaining. The crowd I saw it with was about evenly divided between those who were laughing uproariously and those who were saying "shhh" because they thought they were seeing A Film and not a movie. If you like your camp served steamy hot and covered with schmaltz, you'll probably get a kick out of the first 90 minutes of Dark Blue. It may not have the art-house cred of The Hours 2: 2 More Hours or The Man With Two Beautiful Minds, but it does have lots more shouting.