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Film / Dark Blue

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Maybe a little too literal.

"This whole damn city is gonna burn."
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Dark Blue is a 2002 cop thriller directed by Ron Shelton (Bull Durham, White Men Can't Jump) and based on a novel by James Ellroy set in Los Angeles in 1992, days before the city erupted into rioting following the Rodney King verdict. It stars Kurt Russell as Eldon Perry, a highly corrupt veteran detective in the LAPD.

Not to be confused with the series of the same name.


This film provides examples of:

  • Asshole Victim:
    • Perry frames a bunch of known hoodlums for another crime to quickly solve a case on Jack Van Meter's orders. He convinces Bobby to kill an escaping suspect by pointing out that no one will miss the guy anyway, but Bobby is visibly stricken by the act as he points out that this still doesn't make it right.
    • Gary Sidwell, one of antagonists, is thrown out of his car and beaten to death during the 1992 riots.
  • The Atoner:
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    • After Bobby is coerced to kill an innocent man, he breaks down until he confesses his crimes to his cop ex-girlfriend Beth and her superior.
    • After Eldon Perry gets his partner killed, he atones for his crimes at his promotion ceremony by exposing all the corruption taking place under Jack Van Meter inside the department.
  • Big Bad Friend: Jack Van Meter sets up Perry's murder despite having known him for years and having been best friends with Perry's father, which fails when Bobby is killed instead.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Jack Van Meter presents himself as a model leader who’s tough on crime but behind closed doors??? He’s the ringleader behind all the corrupt dealings in the department. Not to mention he has no problem throwing people who works for him or who’s close to him under the bus to save his own ass.
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  • Bittersweet Ending: More bitter than sweet. The case has been closed. Jack's career will probably finish, but Bobby has died and Eldon may go to jail, all after realising the dirty duties he made during all those years.
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Bobby strikes up a relationship with Beth (unbeknowst to him, also a cop), which his racist partner Perry harasses him over.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Assistant Chief Holland, who is dedicated to fighting corruption within the department.
  • Cowboy Cop: Deconstructed. Perry flouts all the rules because he figures that to catch bad guys his town was "built on bullets" and doesn't object to framing and flat-out murdering suspects to quickly close a case. He's also protected by the patronage of Jack Van Meter, a department head who unofficially sanctions his methods. This ends up gradually destroying his life and reputation and gets his partner killed.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Bobby dies in his ex-girlfriend Beth's arms after sharing some last words with his partner Perry.
  • Dirty Cop: The main focus of the film, which provides several examples.
    • Eldon Perry frames people for crimes, shoots suspects, and behaves like an all-around Jerkass. Later on he becomes repentant of his actions and atones with a speech that uncovers all of his and Van Meter's shady dealings.
    • Perry's supervisor Jack Van Meter is one through and through, and oversees and orders all of Perry’s corrupt actions. He's even revealed to be the person Orchard and Sidwell answer to.
    • Bobby Keough subverts it when he has serious moral qualms with the illegalities committed in the department.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Maniac, who’s a crip expresses his disgust to Perry and Bobby about Sidwell and Orchard killing Mr. Kim’s unarmed wife and the other innocents during the robbery. He also mentions that if the cops ain’t going to handle it, then him and his crew will because they are pretty cool with Mr. Kim and they take it personal when innocent civilians in their neighborhood are killed.
  • Happily Married: Subverted. Perry thinks he has a good marriage, but his wife and son are actually afraid of him. Midway through the film his wife breaks up with him when he finds her packing up her stuff to move away with their son. Perry elects to let them stay and move out of the house himself instead.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Eldon Perry has a change of heart near the end and exposes the crimes he committed under the immensely corrupt Jack Van Meter.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Perry himself. He’s thought for many years that he was doing the right thing by being rough and ignoring the rules to put the bad guys in jail but in the end? Getting dirty and ignoring the rules have cost him his morality, happiness and marriage. His wife even mentions that he has become just as bad as the people he loathes
  • Internal Affairs: Assistant Chief Holland, heading the IA department, is a major actor trying to expose Jack Van Meter's department for their constant abuse of power in the name of the law. The movie opens with Perry and Van Meter getting Bobby through an inquiry for alleged excessive use of force. Later, Bobby helps them to atone for his homocide of an innocent man whom he and Perry framed for another crime.
  • It Gets Easier: After Bobby kills his first suspect. His partner, Eldon, recounts his first kill, and how much it affected him. He says that, even though killing is a normal part of his job now, he still thinks about that first one.
  • Kick the Dog: Sidwell and Orchard during the robbery gun down four unarmed and innocent people. The store owner’s wife and a married couple but Sidwell gets a very nasty moment by shooting a homeless man who didn’t even witness the robbery or the murders in the neck area, which shatters his larynx.........
    • Not to mention the two thugs let a hooker overdose and die in their hideout after using her for sex and god knows what else they did to her.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Perry has a poignant moment of this at the end of the film. While overlooking the destruction being wrought on the city of Los Angeles by the riots, it's pretty clear that he’s contemplating whether the corrupt lifestyle of him and his partners may have caused it.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: Subverted. Detective Eldon Perry sees himself as one of these, being a casual racist who catches bad guys. Others, including several black cops, point out that he's just a vile scumbag who abuses his power.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Although “Hero” is stretching it quite a bit but Perry certainly fits the bill as he makes numerous racist, homophobic and sexist comments.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Among his other unpleasant qualities, Jack is also very racist. He even calls Holland a nigger to his face during their encounter in the elevator and makes several derogatory terms about Black People with Perry, Bobby and the other white administrators of the department. Irony about all that is Orchard, who is one of the hired thugs that answers to Jack is black.........
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Holland is the only administrator in the department who isn’t corrupt or an asshole and he dedicates his time and efforts to exposing Perry and Van Meter’s dirty dealings.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Bobby comes clear about his crimes to Beth and Holland, and they arrange for him to expose his department's corruption in a public inquiry. Bobby is later shot to death in a botched arrest of the criminals Orchard and Sidwell. Perry witnesses Bobby's murder and is apologetic, but Beth points out that Perry poisoned Bobby's mind to begin with and that it should have been Perry lying on the ground with a bullet in his gut instead.
  • Trailers Always Lie: Holland's quest to bring the corrupt cops to justice plays a much smaller role in the actual film. It's much more of a redemptive character study about Eldon Perry.
  • Tragic Hero: Eldon Perry is the type of corrupt Cowboy Cop who caches very bad criminals, but he also frames suspects, is excessively violent and a casual racist. However, he comes from a long line of cops in his family who raised him into their beliefs. His wife leaves him and takes their son because they're both terrified of him, and most cops outside of his corrupt friends are disgusted by his behavior. He ultimately chooses to expose his own shady dealings to do one last good thing before his days are over. The film ends as he watches over a burning Los Angeles with remorse.
  • Turn Out Like His Father: Subverted. Perry and his father and grandfather were all cops using the same methods that he himself became notorious for, but his own son wants nothing to do with it nor follow the same career choice.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Holland had a brief affair with Beth, which he regretted and told his wife about, who eventually forgave him. The corrupt cops intimidate him by continuing to send photograps of the affair to his wife, who tells him that she's going to leave but will continue to support his bid for Chief of Police.
  • You Monster!: After Perry's partner Bobby is gunned down on the streets due to Perry's corrupting influence, Beth calls him out on his actions and blames him for Bobby's death. It's capped off with this declaration:
    Beth: I hope that you burn in hell, Eldon Perry, you evil motherfucker.
  • You Should Have Died Instead: Beth makes it clear that this is what she thinks of Perry after Bobby died in her arms after being shot by Orchard and Sidwell.

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