‘Dark’ times for cop flicks

Amid the smoke and the barricades of the Los Angeles riots following the verdict of the Rodney King trial in 1992, a cop chases down a crackhead-turned-killer who is his only chance at rectifying the corrupt and decaying system of the city’s police department.

Just as the pain and suffering of the cop and the criminal are evident by their actions, so is the pain and suffering of the audience watching Dark Blue. Anyone who hasn’t yet left the auditorium by this point is either a masochist or simply asleep.

The genre of cop movies is diverse, ranging in type and style. It contains comedies such as The Police Academy (which, even with its countless number of installments, still manages to make most audiences laugh) and Bad Boys, as well as dramas such as Training Day, Donnie Brasco and even Point Break.

Writers and directors have been looking for new ways to show the life of police officers — clearly, some do it better than others. But nothing is worse than a poorly-directed cop flick, with a thickly inlaid message and an unsuccessful attempt at depth and meaning.

Eldon Perry Jr. (Kurt Russell) is an LAPD detective from a family dedicated to law enforcement.

Before he is finally sworn in as a lieutenant (although it’s never explained why this apparently deserved honor took so long), he has to do one more job for the head of his department.

The job turns out to be a cover-up for the department head, and the question is whether Eldon will do what is right or what is expected of him.

The outset of the story is somewhat complicated — the good guy/bad guy roles are not clearly set. The audience follows Eldon, clearly aware that he is not an outstanding individual, but just as clearly sides with him.

Eldon’s colleagues and chiefs are at first ambiguous as to the morality of their characters, but their traits soon emerge, most of the time contrary to the primary notion the viewer might have. While in some movies this tactic helps the filmmakers trick the audience, the maneuver fails miserably when one can see through the transparent plot.

While the movie is trying to provide the audience with numerous plots and twists, all it achieves is confusion. The film becomes a choppy, disconnected tale with too many story lines, too many characters and too many undeveloped references to the past.

Possibly the only good things in the movie are a cameo by rapper Master P. and the re-enactment of the L.A. riots. Master P’s cameo is not as entertaining in itself as are Eldon’s constant reminders for Master P’s character to speak English.

It is a much needed element of comic relief, one cleverly hidden among a few bad puns uttered by Eldon.

The final scenes of the film include the agitation and turbulent upheavals of the people residing in Los Angeles. The scenes are powerful and provocative. This part is worth catching purely for the historical sense of the time.

The racially tense film tries hard to give a positive message to the audience, and Russell tries really, really hard to make this message clear.

Unfortunately, it’s filled with too many clichés to make this message seem fresh and realistic. The emblematic heartfelt trumpet music accompanying the thoughtful scenes is the epitome of such unsuccessful attempts.

It comes down to Dark Blue being a movie about cops — good cops and bad cops, young cops and old cops, corrupt cops and pure cops.

The premise is noteworthy and the intent is momentous, but the approach of the matter and the execution of its portrayal are atrocious. The movie might have recovered by having one shoot-out or explosion scene of a sizable proportion, but it lacks even that.

Drama, R, Running time: 116 min.

Contact Olga Robakat oracleolga@yahoo.com