L.A. Confidential

by Alan Rapp on September 30, 2008

in DVD Reviews 

  • Title: L.A. Confidential
  • IMDB: link

“Off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush.”

The year was 1997 and the film was L.A. Confidential. Based on the James Ellroy novel of the same name the film tells the story of corruption and murder in 1950’s Los Angeles.

The film follows the investigations of three distinctly different cops.  The first is the ambitious career-mined Det. Lt. Edmund Exley (Guy Pearce) who makes a name for himself on honesty and a willingness to throw those who don’t agree to the wolves.

The second is Officer Bud White (Russell Crowe) a blunt instrument with a strong desire to help women in trouble and more brains than most people, even himself, give him credit.

And the third, Det. Sgt. Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), is a fame obsessed cop drunk on the Hollywood scene, his small role as a consultant for the cop show Badge of Honor (think Dragnet), and his ties to sleazoid magazine editor (Danny DeVito).

The murder of White’s partner (Graham Beckel) at the Nite Owl, recently kicked-off the force for bloody holiday press nightmare, lead each man into their own overlapping investigation which turns up a pimp (David Strathairn) who runs a stable of girls made to look like movie stars, his Veronica Lake look-alike Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger), a large supply of missing heroin, three young African-Americans (Salim Grant, Karreem Washington, Jeremiah Birkett) who are guilty, but not of what they are accused of, a former cop (Darell Sandeen), the involvement of the District Attorney (Ron Rifkin) in the death of a young gay actor (Simon Baker), and the the mysterious hand eliminating mobsters and taking control of organized crime in the City of Angeles from the shadows.

Co-written and directed by Curtis Hanson the film is a blend of historical drama, mystery, suspense, action, and great filmmaking.  Hanson took some chances with casting both Pearce and Crowe (and this point in their careers relative unknowns) and filled out the film with many familiar faces like Basinger, Spacey, and James Cromwell.

In terms of style and feel it hits the right buttons in delivering a film noir tale without coming off forced or cheesy as many recent attempts (see The Black Dahlia).  Though the film may have lost out Oscar night to a sinking ship, it has aged well and should remain a classic in the genre for years to come.

Because of it’s location, time period and subject matter the film is often compared to Chinatown.  Though I don’t believe it to be in quite that category it’s a terrific film which should be on most people’s DVD shelf and it’s nice to see it finally get a release filled with the types of extras and features it deserves.

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