Entertainment Magazine

L.A. Confidential

Posted on the 25 March 2016 by Christopher Saunders
L.A. ConfidentialTime has treated L.A. Confidential (1997) well. Though modestly successful, it was overshadowed by Titanic's colossal success. Curtis Hanson's slick neo-noir has aged far better, a multilayered tale of crime, corruption and media sleaziness that's irresistible.
1950s Los Angeles stands on the verge of chaos. Several gangland hits and a restaurant massacre bring in three LAPD officers: Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), ambitious straight arrow; Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), flamboyant advisor to a TV series; and Bud White (Russell Crowe), bad-tempered detective. They trace a conspiracy involving businessman Pierce Padgett (David Strathairn), crooked cops, a prostitution ring and city officials.
Hanson and photographer Dante Spinotti borrow from Chinatown and Mulholland Falls while adding personal touches. It's a classy blend of modern sensibilities and noir grittiness, with clipped pacing, staccato dialog and oodles of period style, underlined by Jerry Goldsmith's score. Hanson delivers action in brutal bursts: a botched arrest turned pointblank gunfight, Ed and Bud's dustup, Bud interrogating a crooked D.A. (Ron Rifkin). Only the finale skews conventional, and after two hours' build-up it's more than satisfying.
L.A. Confidential explores the disconnect between L.A.'s image and reality. The media, represented by tabloid scrounger Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito), burnishes L.A.'s image through film and television while scoring off its seediness. Police routinely beat and murder suspects; having bested mobster Mickey Cohen, they'll stymie the Mob by any means necessary. Padgett runs a prostitution ring whose clients, including Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger), resemble movie stars; Jack flits between the celebrity and police worlds, finding corruption in both.
Scenarist Brian Helgeland confects an intriguing slow-burn mystery. Captain Smith (James Cromwell) sics the cops on three black suspects; only Exley's quick-thinking prevents a premature massacre. Their investigation moves fitfully: Ed resents Bud's violence, Bud hates Ed's ambition; Jack's more interested in his show than crime. L.A. Confidential plays their personalities against each other, cleverly manipulated by the villains. The plot turns on telling details ("Rollo Tomasi") rather than obvious errors, culminating in a compromised conclusion.
Russell Crowe's tough-minded performance made him a star; he's rarely been better. Guy Pearce emphasizes Exley's zealousness, growing tougher while never compromising. Kevin Spacey nails an unusually likeable role: he's a cynical celebrity yet the cleanest protagonist. Kim Basinger's conflicted femme fatale, David Strathairn's smarmy businessman and James Cromwell's slimy Captain provide stellar support. Danny DeVito's narration adds humorous punctuation.
L.A. Confidential is the rare movie that gets everything right. From its well-crafted plot to the seamless style, it's a modern classic.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog