Essentially this is a voyage of discovery for Perry, and Russell plays it very well. This is a villainous character, somehow able to justify the most brutal actions without a twinge of conscience, and yet we identify with him simply because Russell plays it so sympathetically. It's especially compelling as real life starts to chip away at his veneer in the shape of his bitter wife (the excellent Davidovitch), the struggling Bobby (Speedman is superb) and the impending chaos of the Rodney King verdict. All of the characters are fascinatingly well written and played, blending the good and bad sides of their personalities much more effectively than in Ayers' last film, Training Day (here only Gleeson is pure evil). Meanwhile, Shelton's directing style is both naturalistic and heightened--the film feels like it was soaked in both alcohol and blood! These are deeply conspiratorial, corrupt, arrogant white men ... and it's not merely symbolic that the two cops on their trail are both black! Or that their low-life informants are a salt-and-pepper team (Kurupt and Mihok). The film is jammed with meaning, even if the reap-what-you-sow moral is a bit heavy-handed. As it builds to its tense, action-packed finale, there are more than a few surprises in store (and one rather over-the-top speech), but the film keeps its focus squarely in Russell's eyes. And he never lets us down.
dir Ron Shelton|
scr David Ayer
with Kurt Russell, Scott Speedman, Michael Michele, Ving Rhames, Brendan Gleeson, Kurupt, Dash Mihok, Lolita Davidovich, Khandi Alexander, Jonathan Banks, Dana Lee, Chapman Russell Way
release US 21.Feb.03; UK 4.Jul.03
Partners in crime (fighting): Speedman and Russell.
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