Director Ron Shelton knows sports movies; so, when corrupt cops gather in the inner sanctum of the Los Angeles Police Department, the scene resembles a Major League clubhouse—or at least a Hollywoodized version of it. The director, known for Bull Durham, Tin Cup and other athletic fare, talks about the similarity between the two cultures in his running commentary that also deals with the Rodney King trial and resulting riots against which Dark Blue's morality tale unfolds.
Kurt Russell is Eldon Perry, a cop from a long line of them, who's willing to break the law to put away the city's scum. But when his Special Investigative Service task force is ordered to eliminate two innocent scumbags so that those guilty of a quadruple homicide can go free, even he's pushed to his moral breaking point. Russell gives an exceptional performance as the conflicted cop with a failing marriage, and that, along with a frightening depiction of the King-trial aftermath, helps elevate this above its B-movie brethren.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic picture is adequate, with realistic skin tones. However, the film was shot with intentionally muted colors. The audio is another story. The soundtrack boasts an active LFE channel, notably during the hip-hop music track.
Aside from Shelton's commentary, there are three very well-done making-of documentaries, running a total of 32 minutes, that examine everything from L.A.P.D. procedures to the costume design to re-creating the riots. Notes Shelton, "The rioters had a bigger budget than we did." —Gary Frisch
DVD: The Right Stuff Special Edition—Warner Brothers
Twenty years have passed since The Right Stuff was originally released, and I still can't understand why this movie wasn't an across-the-board smash from day one. There are a number of theories as to why the film fared so poorly at the box office upon its initial release. Some people think that the three-hour-plus running time may have scared many viewers away, while others speculate that many filmgoers perceived The Right Stuff as merely a promotional piece for John Glenn's upcoming 1984 presidential campaign. Four Academy Awards and 20 years of great word of mouth have finally helped to establish The Right Stuff as a true American cinema classic that will be enjoyed for generations by historians and dreamers alike.
Although The Right Stuff has been available on DVD for years, the initial release was a bare-bones double-sided disc that you had to manually flip over halfway through the film. The new two-disc special edition features a newly restored 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer that's a definite improvement over the original, although some minor print flaws still appear here and there. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack sounds fantastic, especially during the many test-flight sequences. The second disc of extras has some quality stuff, including many new interview featurettes with both the original astronauts and the amazing cast. Unfortunately, the only commentary consists of some montages from various participants over selected scenes in lieu of a full-length commentary from writer/director Phillip Kaufman. The brief commentaries will leave you wanting more, but at least The Right Stuff has finally been given the DVD treatment it deserves.—Gary Maxwell