Dark Blue appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided DVD-14; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Other than a few moderate problems, the image generally seemed positive.
Edge enhancement created most of the picture’s distractions. Haloes appeared modest throughout the movie, but they showed up fairly consistently and created something of a nuisance. However, the edge enhancement didn’t seem to affect sharpness, as the movie always looked nicely crisp and detailed. I noticed none of the blurriness that often comes with DVDs that suffer from edge enhancement. Jagged edges and moiré effects seemed non-existent. Other than moderate graininess that stemmed from the film’s style and Super 35 photography, I noticed almost no source flaws. A couple of specks popped up but nothing else interfered with the presentation.
For the most part, Blue presented a fairly subdued palette dominated by the hue mentioned in its title. Some exteriors demonstrated richer, more saturated tones, but a lot of chilliness appeared throughout the movie. At times, the blues looked somewhat too heavy, but for the most part, the colors were accurate and appropriately depicted. Black levels came across as deep and dense, while shadows were appropriately heavy but not too thick. If the image lost the edge enhancement, it might have made it to “A” level, but as it stood, it received a “B”.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Dark Blue also demonstrated a few problems, but it generally appeared satisfying. The soundfield was fairly limited much of the time. The forward spectrum featured most of the audio, and music offered nice stereo imaging.
Effects tended toward general ambience and only occasionally really came to life. A few scenes seemed fairly disappointing in that regard; for example, the segment in the strip club featured a weak sense of atmosphere. However, other parts like a climactic chase used the soundfield well and nicely integrated the rear speakers. Surround usage mostly just supported the music and general effects, but they showed decent information at times. Localization appeared positive.
Audio quality appeared average. Speech usually came across as natural and distinct, but some edginess interfered at times. Music was lively and dynamic for the most part; bass response seemed erratic but usually sounded appropriately deep. The same went for the effects. These sounded accurate and clean, but they didn’t pack a terrific punch. Low-end material was decent but unexceptional. That phrase largely described the soundtrack of Dark Blue as a whole, for the mix worked acceptably well but never did much more than that.
The DVD’s supplements start with an audio commentary from director Ron Shelton. He offers a running, screen-specific piece. Shelton covers the basic topics. He mostly sticks with technical subjects such as locations, camerawork, and editing, but he also chats about the cast and some story points. While the commentary gets into the basic elements and seems generally useful, it never becomes anything more than that. Overall Shelton provides a pretty average track.
When we move to the Internal Affairs domain, we get three featurettes that can be viewed individually or together via the “Play All” option. “Code Blue” lasts 18 minutes and 15 seconds as it gives us a general examination of the film. “Code” and the other two programs use the standard combination of movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. Here we get remarks from actors Kurt Russell, Michael Michelle, and Ving Rhames, producer Cotty Chubb, screenwriter David Ayer, Ron Shelton, director of photography Barry Peterson, and production designer Dennis Washington.
”Code” gives us notes about the original novel on which the film was based as well as its script. We get material about casting, the dangers of the LA locations, camerawork, visuals, and various design issues. “Code” seems generally interesting but superficial, as it provides some good material from the shoot but it doesn’t offer much depth.
“By the Book” runs seven minutes and 12 seconds as it focuses on the movie’s visual elements. We get notes from Shelton, art director Tom Taylor, production designer Washington, and costume designer Kathryn Morrison. We get more information about sets and locations as well as details of props and costumes. As with “Code”, “Book” comes across as quick and fairly shallow, though it gives us a few nice tidbits about some of these issues.
The best of the three featurettes, “Necessary Force” takes six minutes, 50 seconds and includes comments from Russell, Shelton, and technical advisor Bob Souza. The latter participant dominates the piece, as he covers factual elements of the production like gunhandling, cop work, the internal workings of the police department, procedures, and other bits. This helps provide a nice backdrop for the tale and seems consistently interesting.
The Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery includes 25 pictures. These mix publicity shots and behind the scenes images; none of them seem terribly memorable. Some ads complete the set. We get the film’s theatrical trailer as well as promos in the Other Great MGM Releases. There we find trailers for Platoon, Rocky, and Die Another Day plus a general clip called “MGM Means Great Movies”.
Were it not for a solid performance by its star, Dark Blue would seem essentially forgettable. Even with a fine turn from Kurt Russell, the movie can’t escape its clichés, and it remains pretty mediocre. The DVD features generally positive picture and sound, though both suffer from some minor problems. The supplements also seem decent but not particularly compelling. A generally average flick and DVD, Dark Blue might interest fans of the cop genre, but I can’t offer it much of a recommendation.