Director Ron Shelton is best known for his cynical and funny sports movies like Bull Durham, White Men Can’t Jump, and Tin Cup. The story (but not the screenplay) is by James Ellroy, and this movie is solidly in his territory, the dark side of Los Angeles and the LAPD. We all know of the scandals the L.A. cops have been involved in, but the story here is many times worse. It takes place in the four or five days before the Rodney King verdict set the city on fire, and during the riot itself. Kurt Russell is one of those cops who cheerfully do whatever it takes to get scumbags off the street, even pretty much executing them if he has to. His rabbi on the force is Brendan Gleeson, who always seems good. Good at being bad, I mean. Then there is Ving Rhames, who is always a solid menacing presence, playing a good cop this time. There is also some nice work by the lovely Michael Michele, who I thought at first was mis-billed, with the names reversed, but that’s actually her name.
It all goes along pretty well for a while, things getting darker and darker, but then it pretty much blows it with a ridiculous climactic scene at the Police Academy, where Russell publicly blows the whole horrible mess into the open. Didn’t believe that scene for a moment.