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And veteran actor Kurt Russell goes the distance in creating a creepy , whiskey- sodden gunslinger of a cop

According to veteran LAPD cop Eldon Perry ( Kurt Russell ) his mission is to prey upon predators and guarantee that they will never predate again. An undercover Special Investigations officer Perry drinks on the job, roughs up suspects, guns down ‘suspected’ perps, and is utterly under the thumb of his equally ruthless, amoral boss at Parker Centre Jack Van Meter ( Brendan Gleeson ). Perry is teaching his gullible, guilt-ridden partner Bobby Keough ( Scott Speedman ) exactly how to viciously rid the city streets of predators. Bobby is a quick study and this trio of monsters soon find themselves entirely at odds with one another. Perry and Van Meter have totally bought into the macho ‘cowboy’ ethos of their culture as the sons and grandsons of cops. Keough is Van Meter’s nephew,too. Their nemesis is Assistant Chief Police Commissioner Holland ( Ving Rhames ) a black rock of integrity determined to demolish the white ‘cowboy’ code of misconduct and to punish its most prominent miscreants.

Director Ron Shelton and his writer David Ayer set their ambitious morality play during the days between the beating of Rodney King ( twelve years ago ) and the outcome of the trial of the four LAPD cops caught on video assaulting the petty thief with batons and with a taser-gun as he lay supine on the pavement. This very intense and truly challenging film recreates the riot city-wide that was triggered by the acquittal of the quartet of cops. And it is a forbidding sight as the black ghettos rise up against authority to loot neighbour-hood stores and beat and kill their Korean and Caucasian ‘slave-masters’.

For once a cop melodrama does not rely on one rotten policeman to expose the force. Here almost everyone is tainted. Their disdain for short-term honesty, and for long-term ethics, is embedded in how they do their job. They are convinced that they must man that thin blue line between civility and chaos. Even when their actions are no less despicable and deplorable than the callous, casual cruelties of their prey.

Police ‘brutality’ can be endemic in every city - as it appears to be in Vancouver right now - and Los Angeles, since the late Forties, has been outstanding in its record of an ongoing ‘fascist’ police regime. DARK BLUE had been adapted from a short story by notable crime author James Ellroy , whose ferocious novels tell it as it is, for example his L.A.CONFIDENTIAL. Shelton and Ayer faithfully capture Ellroy’s frank and gritty vision of the LAPD as an officially approved lynch-mob of racists, drunks, and thugs in uniforms. And veteran actor Kurt Russell goes the distance in creating a creepy , whiskey- sodden gunslinger of a cop. A man who is a law unto himself, an avenging angel gone bad.

This is a film that blatantly teases at the same time as it genuinely intrigues, and shocks


British filmmaker Alan Parker’s new murder-mystery melodrama is both bizarre and macabre. It ties together both capital punishment and euthanasia in a sinister S&M scenario about the decline and fall of David Gale, a distinguished philosophy professor in Texas, which - after China - leads the world in its frequency of state executions, who finds himself on Death Row with only four days to live after almost a decade behind bars.

Gale ( Kevin Spacey ) has been a leading advocate with "Deathwatch", a volunteer agency that opposes capital punishment, and where his colleague Constance ( Laura Linney ) tries to tame his demons. We watch while Gale’s picture-perfect family life crumbles due to his escalating dependence on liquor. Then he falls foul of a seductive graduate student in one of his classes and is accused of sexually assaulting her. Though he is acquitted from the rape charge Gale becomes a pariah on campus, a moral leper politically ‘incorrect’ forever, and he tumbles precipitously into alcoholism. Or so we are led to believe.

Enter Bitsie Bloom ( Kate Winslet ) a hugely ambitious arrogant reporter assigned to conduct three two-hour interviews on Death Row with the doomed despondent Gale. She painstakingly pieces together an alternative scenario that has inadvertently led the seemingly innocent Gale to prison and execution. Or is he a stone-cold killer leading her up the garden path?

This is a film that blatantly teases at the same time as it genuinely intrigues, and shocks – particularly a video of a nude woman expiring handcuffed on her kitchen floor. Each successive scene is convincingly played out by all the principals, especially at a drunken party where the inebriated Gale succumbs to his sexy young siren. Or is this a faked set-up, too?

Parker’s direction is rich in atmosphere and wit. His cast give intense and passionate performances and lend a verisimilitude to the highly concocted plot, a convoluted scenario that is definitely too clever by half. Not only is our heroine possibly being conned, but we in the audience possibly are also being taken for a ride, along a rocky road leading nowhere .The extravagantly tense climax to this very tall tale concludes with every single character being rewarded thanks to an elaborate hoax played by a very smart guy with a very definite death-wish. A man who wants the world to know just how far his obsessions will take him. Enough said.

© Alex Grant 2003

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