Trauma Centers

Let Their Freak Flags Fly

Infidelity for beginners: Richter and Kaas in Open Hearts
photo: Rolf Konow
Infidelity for beginners: Richter and Kaas in Open Hearts


Open Hearts
Directed by Susanne Bier
Written by Bier and Anders Thomas Jensen
Opens February 21

Gods and Generals
Written and directed by Ronald F. Maxwell
Warner Bros.
Opens February 21

Dark Blue
Directed by Ron Shelton
Written by David Ayer
United Artists
Opens February 21

Another traumatic scenario that at least takes racial hatred as a given, Ron Shelton's Dark Blue adapts an early, prototypical James Ellroy story: the racist, monstrously corrupt L.A. cop (Kurt Russell) heading into damnation alley as the city itself explodes into the 1992 riots. Shelton's grace and deft touch with sports fringe-dwellers is not in evidence; what looms is Ellroy's arch, screaming-mimi hyper-noirism, which reads a shitload better than it plays. (Los Angeles is "a city built on bullets"; when an innocent man is gunned down, a nearby toddler drops her bottle; etc.) Russell and same-Shaun Cassidy-hairdo partner Scott Speedman act as tortured pawns for venal police chief Brendan Gleeson (with a brogue—are cops still being imported from Tipperary?), executing suspects on command and watching their lives and vestiges of moral sense collapse as a result. The movie has a distinctly dated vibe, sharing more than just Ellroy with the 1988 James Woods muck-wallow Cop. But 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. I wouldn't call it enlightened, but at least it's not waving a flag.

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