on January 20, 2006 by Tim Cogshell
"Dirty" follows a single day in the life of two bad cops working as part of the LAPD's elite gang violence unit. Salim Adel (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and Armando Sancho ("Capote's" Clifton Collins Jr.) are accused in a bad shoot-out that left a civilian dead. Internal Affairs is moving in and the pressure is on. Salim is reckless and brutal, even moreso to civilians, whom he abuses with abandon. Armando, a former gang-banger, has a conscience, which, oddly, is the problem. Their superiors in the Unit are every bit as crooked as they are, yet they talk of the brotherhood cops and their charge to clean up the streets by any means necessary. Over the course of this day, Armando must decide which gang he will belong to -- a choice between bad and really bad.

While it is neither an accounting of nor based on the infamous Rampart scandal of the Los Angeles Police Department, director and co-writer Chris Fisher plainly followed those events closely. To that end, this story of police corruption might be called "ripped from the headlines." In any case, the film is certainly a reflection of a systemic problem that plagued the department. It illuminates the issue of the "thin blue line," wherein cops and criminals become indistinguishable. Gangs, in different uniforms.

Gooding and Collins are both very good, though one cannot help but note the similarity between the performances given here and those of Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke in the similarly-themed "Training Day." The cinematography of Eliot Rockett is also laudable: The city is not only rendered in the usual hot and gritty texture of urban landscapes, but is imbued with sense of oppression that is palpable.

There is in "Dirty" an intent to reflect something "real" about cops and gangs in Los Angeles, but the film suffers from both a myopia about the larger issues in the department and on the streets, and a tendency toward the cliché in the design of its characters, images and dialogue. Still, it's a crunchy movie that plays with the urgency of current events -- uncomfortably so. Which is likely one of its goals -- well achieved. Starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Clifton Collins Jr., Cole Hauser, Wyclef Jean and Keith David. Directed by Chris Fisher. Written by Chris Fisher, Gil Reavill and Eric Saks. Produced by Ash Shah, David Hillary and Tim Peternel. A Silver Nitrate release. Drama. Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, some sexual content and drug use. Running time: 97 min

Tags: police, gangs, corruption, Clifton Collins Jr., Cuba Gooding Jr., street gangs, crime, murder, LAPD, Cole Hauser, Wyclef Jean, Keith David, Chris Fisher, Ash Shah

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