DARK BLUE James Ellroy wrote the novel L.A. Confidential while David Ayers penned the screenplay for Training Day; small wonder, then, that this collaborative effort between the pair gleefully snatches elements from both earlier works, placing a charismatic yet corrupt cop at the center of a drama in which the city of Los Angeles is set to explode. Using the LA riots of 1992 as the factual backdrop (a sound decision), the movie then proceeds to bog down in every by-the-book cop cliche known to man, resulting in a police procedural even more tired than the recent Narc. This one's primary selling point is Kurt Russell, whose multi-faceted performance as a tainted cop at least keeps the film watchable. The rest of the line-up -- Ving Rhames as an incorruptible officer, Lolita Davidovich as Russell's unhappy wife, Scott Speedman as his wet-behind-the-ears partner -- don't fare as well with their stock characters, although director Ron Shelton (Bull Durham) tries to keep matters moving swiftly enough so we don't have to dwell on the thudding dialogue.
EVELYN With each passing film, it's becoming more and more apparent that Pierce Brosnan isn't the mannequin-model many of us had pegged him for but rather a capable actor who can more than hold his own on the big screen. Belying looks that would make him a natural in a shaving cream commercial, Brosnan has delivered perfectly tuned portrayals in films like The Thomas Crown Affair and The Tailor of Panama (not to mention finally settling down in the franchise role of James Bond). He's just as impressive in Evelyn, a "based on true events" yarn that relates an inspiring story without being particularly inspired itself. Set in 1953 Ireland, the picture finds Brosnan playing Desmond Doyle, a loving father whose children are taken from him after his wife abandons the entire family. His abilities as a parent aren't what's in question -- the law simply states that these children must be placed in orphanages -- but rather than accept this state-mandated decree, Doyle takes his case all the way to the Irish Supreme Court, with a trio of savvy lawyers (Aidan Quinn, Stephen Rea and Alan Bates) by his side. Adults might find the movie on the slight side, though it's a good choice for family night viewing. Incidentally, the title refers to one of Doyle's three children -- she's winningly played by 9-year-old Sophie Vavasseur. 1/2
DAREDEVIL In the introduction to the 1975 compendium Son of Origins of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee admitted that of all the superheroes he ever created (including Spider-Man and the X-Men), his favorite was the blind crimefighter who practiced law by day as attorney Matt Murdock and donned the red tights by night as Daredevil. Yet even though Lee himself makes a cameo appearance, I'd be hard-pressed to believe that Daredevil will emerge as his favorite Marvel movie. Like Green Lantern over at DC Comics, Daredevil has always been more a favorite of the cultists than the general population, and it's a shame that this film version doesn't honor that distinction by serving up something truly unique. Instead, this live-action epic, directed by Grumpy Old Men scripter Mark Steven Johnson, is all over the map -- it's by turns affecting, exciting, contemplative, heavy-handed, cheesy, and downright ludicrous. Ben Affleck, hardly the Matt Murdock of the printed page, fares better than expected, and he establishes a nice rapport with Alias star Jennifer Garner, cast as feisty love interest Elektra. And while Michael Clarke Duncan is merely serviceable as the imposing Kingpin, Colin Farrell (The Recruit) adopts the right manic tone to play the egocentric assassin Bullseye and runs away with the film. But although there's plenty to like in Daredevil, there's almost as much to dismiss, including a heavy dependence on subpar CGI effects, reams of lead-footed dialogue, and a climactic showdown that's about as exciting as a documentary on aglet production. 1/2
DELIVER US FROM EVA When constructing a romantic comedy, it's not a good idea to make your central character so odious that audience members won't care whether he or she finds romance or not. Yet that's the case with Deliver Us From Eva, a clumsy effort in which an intelligent, beautiful woman named Eva (Gabrielle Union) rules over her three younger sisters with an iron fist, much to the consternation of the siblings' male companions. In an effort to get Eva's nose out of their daily affairs, the three guys decide to hire a smooth-talking ladies' man (LL Cool J) to woo her, but matters become complicated once the player falls in love with his mark. We're meant to thaw toward Eva as she thaws toward the idea of romance, but as harshly written by writer-director Gary Hardwick and his co-scripters -- and as broadly played by Union -- the character doesn't smack of The Taming of the Shrew's Katherine (the obvious inspiration) as much as such unrepentant characters as Alice In Wonderland's wicked Queen or one of Bette Davis' ice queens. Not that any of the other characters present humanity at its finest: The sisters can't think for themselves, their men are ineffectual weaklings, and the women's local hangout, a beauty salon, is run by a foul-mouthed, sex-crazed manhunter ("I can't keep my legs together!" she declares after ogling a hunk). Only LL Cool J's considerable charisma keeps this from completely sinking. 1/2