Mixed or average reviews - based on 37 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 37
  2. Negative: 4 out of 37
Watch On
  1. 100
    Dark Blue is one of those totally happy surprises that moves so quickly and curves so sharply that it leaves this era's hyped critical hits looking like beached whales.
  2. Goes where all too few films dare to venture these days -- into the heart of moral darkness.
  3. Another harrowingly cynical dirty-cop movie in the recent tradition of "Training Day" and "Narc." Yet it's so much more complex, engrossing and satisfying than those films that the comparison is not entirely fair.
  4. Shelton's harrowing and compulsively watchable morality play.
  5. 80
    Flaws and all, Dark Blue has a combustible energy that's usually anathema to Hollywood, reopening an old wound that has festered too quietly for more than a decade.
  6. 75
    Russell is the reason to go to the theater. He will continue to hold your attention when things around him -– like the storyline -– lose steam and credibility.
  7. 75
    A film of wounding power. It stays with you.
  8. While Dark Blue may not be easy to watch, it's exceptionally well made.
  9. 75
    Not a great movie, but it has moments that go off the meter and find visceral impact. The characters driving through the riot-torn streets of Los Angeles provide some of them, and the savage, self-hating irony of Russell's late dialogue provides the rest.
  10. It gains a major charge of dramatic energy from Kurt Russell's ferocious acting, almost certainly the best of his career.
  11. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    Refreshingly devoid of flashiness or artificially pumped-up action, this consistently gripping, well-constructed police thriller… showcases a tightly controlled performance from Kurt Russell.
  12. 70
    Eleven years on, someone in Hollywood has finally worked up the nerve to address the LA riots--but only on the slickest terms imaginable.
  13. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    This is ultimately a conversion melodrama, and a clumsy one. But until it goes to hell, it's thrillingly good, a fervid answer to the spate of cop movies that glorify brutality and sanction ends over means.
  14. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    In the end, the problem with movies like Dark Blue is that they willfully ignore the systemic, historical, cultural, and class causes of racism in favor of pinning it all on a few bad apples. Sure, that's entertainment. It's also a lie.
  15. After a decade of silence, surely Hollywood can do better.
  16. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    There's at least one plot element too many here; let your own taste determine which one. Yet until it dissolves into conventional melodrama during a climactic fracas, this fast-paced story is never less than watchable.
  17. 63
    Ron Shelton effectively ratchets up the tension without resorting to the stylistic flourishes of a more recent flick about dirty cops, "Narc."
  18. Unlike the intrigue and winding switchback of moral mysteries that defined "L.A. Confidential," Dark Blue travels on flat, predictable terrain.
  19. Sensitively directed by Ron Shelton and helped by what just might be the best performance of Kurt Russell's career, Dark Blue is as interesting and successful as it can be within its limits, but those limits make this a more generic film than its makers intended.
  20. 60
    Shelton has directed Dark Blue in a jacked-up urban thriller style that simply does not play to his gifts. He's a sidewinder, the sort of writer-director who tells his stories through loopy character details and anecdotes.
  21. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie does not live up to Mr. Russell's performance.
  22. 60
    It’s shocking how much Dark Blue hates cops.
  23. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    If this brutal tale of crime and corruption within the upper ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department feels like an updated retelling of "L.A. Confidential," there's good reason. Both stories spring from the dark mind of American crime writer James Ellroy.
  24. The movie ends not with a bang but a wimp.
  25. 58
    So what will happen? Sadly, some overacting and a bad "And Justice For All"-style speech at the end.
  26. 50
    In the wake of TV's powerhouse "The Shield," Dark Blue comes off as something of a retread, with little of "The Shield's" electric fury, edgy camera work or deft characterizations.
  27. However misjudged and evidently cobbled together in the editing room, Dark Blue does have the nerve to drive right through the riots with Russell's saber-toothed bigot, implicitly linking the two phenomena and not being shy about the suffering on either side of the combat.
  28. Through it all, though, Kurt Russell gives Dark Blue a bleak integrity -- funny word, given the circumstances -- that almost serves as its redemption.
  29. 50
    In short, Dark Blue suffers from a problem that, however niggling, is likely to hobble any thriller: no thrills. [17 & 24 February 2003, p.204]

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