The Best Kurt Russell Performance No One Talks About Is Free To Stream Now

By Shanna Mathews-Mendez | Updated

kurt russell dark blue

Dark Blue, a film released in 2002 to little fanfare despite an all-star cast, is a decent flick if you’re looking for something you haven’t seen yet. But what is really worth watching is Kurt Russell’s performance as a pretty bad guy. 

Kurt Russell

Kurt Russell

Modern audiences are used to seeing Kurt Russell as Santa Claus in Christmas Chronicles. Older film lovers likely remember him from films like Overboard, Stargate, and Miracle. He rarely plays a bad guy, and even when he does, it’s usually supremely enjoyable, like his role as Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. But Kurt Russell in Dark Blue gives us a corrupted, gritty cop who isn’t likely to be redeemed. 

A Dirty Cop

Kurt Russell

Kurt Russell plays Detective Eldon Perry in Dark Blue–he’s a third generation cop with the Los Angeles Police Department up for a promotion. He’s breaking in his young partner, Bobby Keough, played by Scott Speedman, who’s already shown a proclivity for violence and corruption.

As the film opens, we’re thrown into the action — Perry’s walking around a motel room holding a shotgun and a pistol, but we’re not sure exactly why. To find out, we flashback to “five days earlier.” 

Moral Ambiguity

What makes Kurt Russel so great in Dark Blue is that he rides this line between a loyal cop true to the code and a ruthless man unafraid to set up criminals. In the flashback, we see a convenience store robbery involving two men, Darryl Orchard and Gary Sidwell, in which four people are killed and one is wounded.

At the same time this is taking place, Perry is defending Keough in an internal affairs hearing charging Keough with deadly force. When Keough is exonerated, the partners celebrate that and Perry’s promotion. The two are joined by their boss, who is also Keough’s uncle, Jack Van Meter (played by the always amazing Brendan Gleeson).

Cop-Sanctioned Robbery

Unlike Kurt Russel’s character in Dark Blue, Gleeson’s has no ambiguity. He is relentless, a killer, and unapologetically corrupt. After the celebration at the bar, we see Van Meter arrive at a house occupied by Orchard and Sidwell, where he takes the money stolen during their robbery, and mildly admonishes the men for their “reckless behavior.”

Essentially, this robbery was sanctioned by this dirty cop. Van Meter then assigns the robbery case to Perry and Keough, provides an alibi for Orchard and Sidwell, and points them in a different direction. 

Stream It Now

The power behind Kurt Russell’s role in Dark Blue lies in his attempts to do the right thing, to even figure out what the right thing is. You hate him one minute, and then you feel for him in the next.

The drama escalates as Van Meter attempts to cover his tracks, ordering hits on cops and criminals alike, and all of this is taking place as we catch back up with the timeline, just days before the L.A. riots break out in response to the trial for the cops involved with the Rodney King beatings. 

For those of us who lived in California at the time, or for anyone watching the news as it all took place, the ferocity of emotion and awe as the city burned that night was unmatched. It is Kurt Russell, his supporting actors, and the context of the period that make Dark Blue a movie worth watching.

Is it the best cop movie ever? No. Is it a story that has roughly been told many times before? Sure? Does it even come close to films like L.A. Confidential? Of course not. Still, it certainly deserves to be watched. Stream it Dark Blue now on Hoopla.