Dark Blue


Mixed or average reviews - based on 37 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 37
  2. Negative: 4 out of 37

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Critic Reviews

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Goes where all too few films dare to venture these days -- into the heart of moral darkness.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 75
    A film of wounding power. It stays with you.
  7. It gains a major charge of dramatic energy from Kurt Russell's ferocious acting, almost certainly the best of his career.
  8. While Dark Blue may not be easy to watch, it's exceptionally well made.
  9. 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.
  10. Creates a hellishly evil portrait of a police department in which every white cop is either a racist thug or an enabler, and every black cop a disgusted observer or crusading hero.
  11. Dark Blue proves again what a remarkable actor Denzel Washington is. Too bad he's not in it.
  12. The movie heads in a disastrous direction: namely, a police academy ceremony... This lets-wrap-this-thing-up moment sucks the life and the honesty out of an otherwise compelling portrait of tainted lawmen, tainted law.
  13. 60
    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.
  14. 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.
  15. Shelton's harrowing and compulsively watchable morality play.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie does not live up to Mr. Russell's performance.
  20. The movie ends not with a bang but a wimp.
  21. 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.
  22. 40
    My own view is that, like me, the LAPD was defeated by the movie's incestuously proliferating plots. I've seen Dark Blue twice, and I still don't have a handle on all its comings and goings.
  23. We have heard this song before, know it by heart (sadly, as film still can't keep pace with real-life headlines about fake drug busts and a shady LAPD), and still filmmakers can't resist its rhythms.
  24. Imagine finding the will to get up every morning to do another day's work on this stale story tarted up with relevance.
  25. 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.
  26. Unlike the intrigue and winding switchback of moral mysteries that defined "L.A. Confidential," Dark Blue travels on flat, predictable terrain.
  27. 63
    Ron Shelton effectively ratchets up the tension without resorting to the stylistic flourishes of a more recent flick about dirty cops, "Narc."
  28. After a decade of silence, surely Hollywood can do better.
  29. 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.
  30. 60
    It’s shocking how much Dark Blue hates cops.
  31. 40
    Ultimately, Dark Blue feels roughly a decade too late with its back story of the Los Angeles riots. Gates’ department had its share of dirty blues, to be sure, but that hasn’t been notable since the smoke cleared back in 1992.
  32. 58
    So what will happen? Sadly, some overacting and a bad "And Justice For All"-style speech at the end.
  33. 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.
  34. 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.
  35. Wall Street Journal
    Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Through it all, though, Kurt Russell gives Dark Blue a bleak integrity -- funny word, given the circumstances -- that almost serves as its redemption.
  36. The New Yorker
    Reviewed by: Anthony Lane
    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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