thu 29/10/2020

Dark Blue, Five USA | reviews, news & interviews

Dark Blue, Five USA

Dark Blue, Five USA

Dylan McDermott's secret crime squad probe the dark heart of Los Angeles

Jerry Bruckheimer’s production stable has already given us a lifetime’s supply of law-enforcement stories. The hydra-headed CSI franchise has become more ubiquitous than I Love Lucy in its heyday, while Cold Case and the FBI missing-persons yarns of Without a Trace are probably showing on a set near you whether you’re in Saigon or Santiago. Now here’s Jerry’s latest brainchild, Dark Blue, the saga of a crew of undercover Los Angeles cops led by Lieutenant Carter Shaw (Dylan McDermott).

Since this is a Bruckheimer product, you might assume you weren’t about to be plunged too deeply into the kind of moral murk familiar from the less mainstream likes of The Wire, but you’d only be half right. This first episode of the first season (season two just ended in the States) opened with an uncomfortably ghastly torture sequence, where a bound and battered prisoner was being seared with electric shocks in some dingy warehouse. He was later left for dead in an alley, and turned out to be an undercover FBI agent.
This raised the curtain on a taut and edgy tale of clandestine police work, with Lt Shaw’s undercover operation to bring down sadistic mobster Robert Franzine (a chillingly effective James Russo) clashing awkwardly with a simultaneous FBI scheme to catch a much bigger terrorist-funding fish operating higher up the food chain. Mutual dislike between the LAPD and the FBI was taken for granted (Shaw calls them the “Federal Bureau of Intimidation”), though the Feds’ background check on Shaw was a handy device for giving us a bit of lowdown on his 18-year police career.
Dean_small_2What it didn’t reveal, however, was that Shaw now leads a unit so secret that “it’s independent of standard departmental jurisdiction”. In other words, it’s the perfect pretext for unlimited black-ops skulduggery, fiendishly knotted plots and rambling acres of ambiguous motivation.
Indeed, the core of Dark Blue is the price police operatives pay for their undercover work. This episode homed in on Dean Bendis (Logan Marshall-Green, pictured right), who’d painstakingly wormed his way into Franzine’s gang and done it so effectively that Shaw was beginning to suspect he’d defected to the dark side. CCTV cameras had caught him dumping the federal agent’s battered body, and he’d turned off the assorted tracking devices which were the only way his comrades could keep tabs on him. And there was no doubting his readiness to start shooting back at his own side when they tried to intercept Franzine’s bunch as they carried out a bank raid (the lawmen took cover behind their open car doors, which miraculously proved impervious to machine-gun fire).
Characterisation was neatly entwined with the unfolding action – each episode is a self-contained story, so there’s a new batch of scumbags to target every week – so we got to feel the strain mounting on Ty Curtis (Omari Hardwick) as he had to leave his new bride to go back undercover, and learned that the squad’s newest recruit, Jaimie Allen (Nicki Aycox), had systematically lied her way into a police career. In fact her instinctive gift for dishonesty and dissembling was what prompted Shaw to recruit her.
As for Shaw himself, he’s the classic Man With A Past, a bred-in-the-bone career cop incapable of trying an alternative line of work despite the havoc the job has wreaked with his family, private life and emotional stability. McDermott plays him with the kind of stubble-encrusted world-weariness you might recognise from combat veterans, though he’s given a run for his money by Marshall-Green’s obsessively controlled and dead-eyed portrayal of Bendis. All told, the show is several notches above your average police-and-thieves potboiler.
Watch Dark Blue trailer (YouTube):


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