L.A. Confidential - An Unflinching Tale of Police Corruption

                                This is a movie about crime, violence, and corruption. In this film, loyalties shifts like sand in a windstorm. It's about a city called Los Angeles, and a time, the early 1950s. This is L.A. Confidential, one of the most absorbing, compelling, most thoroughly enjoyable crime thriller. "L.A. Confidential" takes place at a time when the celebrity culture, already in place, was about to link arms with the emerging media, television, and do a number on the last trace of human- scale values. There's nothing to believe in, except the moment. So the way is opened for people peddling the thrills of sex and drugs. Corruption was there, boiling and seething beneath a luscious, but very thin veneer.

                         Based on the novel by James Ellroy, co-adapted and directed by Curtis Hanson, this 1997 combination police procedural and underworld expose has already stood the test of time. As the opening voice-over kicks in we see a montage of gorgeous South Californian shots. The stage for what follows is set by a sleazy tabloid reporter : "Life is good on Los-Angeles. It's paradise on earth. That's what they tell you anyway. Because they are selling an image. They are selling it through movies, radio, and television.......You'd think this place was the garden of Eden, but there's trouble in paradise." And indeed there is.

    The film follows the lives of three Los-Angeles police officers, Bud White (Russell Crowe), Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), and Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), as they try to unravel the mystery of the Night Owl Cafe massacre, in which several people, including White's former partner Dick Stensland, were shot dead during what was ostensibly a robbery gone bad. 

             White, is a "muscle" guy who believes that violence solves almost everything and is willing to bend or break the rules to obtain results. Jack, is the kind of officer who prefers the spotlight to a down-and-dirty lifestyle. He's the high-profile technical adviser to the hit TV series, and has a secret agreement with the editor (Danny DeVito) of Hush Hush magazine, a tabloid that publishes photos and stories showing Jack arresting celebrities in compromising positions.

              Finally, there's Ed Exley, a clean cop who thinks he can rise through the ranks without resorting to Bud's ill-mannered methods. Obviously, the tactics used by these three differ greatly, but, as they dig deeper into the murky mysteries of the L.A. police force, it becomes clear that their survival depends on working together. The deeper we get into the case, the more engrossing it becomes.

                Prior to L.A. Confidential, director Curtis Hanson spent nearly 30 years learning the movie business, working as an actor, producer, writer, and eventually a director. He made a big leap, from being a workman like director to film-maker par excellence; the result was a film that is widely considered the best neo-noir since China Town (1974). Curtis Hanson's elegant film, demands some concentration to keep with the subtle plot twists and coded dialogue. The difference between L.A. Confidential and numerous other, more routine films of the genre starts with the script. Smart, insightful, and consistently engaging, Hanson and Brian Helgeland's faithful adaptation of Ellroy's novel is a real treat for anyone who views film as a medium for both art and entertainment. 

                Confidently wielding an clumsy story, they strides through dozens of characters and subplots, and still makes sense of it all without losing the audience. Every scene and every line of dialogue is carefully designed for a purpose. Moreover, it's hard to recall a movie with a better ensemble cast. Muscular, and ruggedly good-looking, Crowe, Aussie, is every inch the image of a Southern California cop, but also brings credibility to his tender and well-motivated episodes. Pearce, lends Exley fierce moral, ethical and intellectual dimensions that considerably enrich the picture's texture.

                Kevin Spacey as the somewhat older homicide veteran who relishes his special status as a "Hollywood" cop, has cultivated a dry view of his own casual corruption but is not beyond rising to the occasion when something truly alarming occurs. Much of the strength of ''L.A. Confidential'' comes from supporting roles. James Cromwell, but best known as the farmer in the film "Babe," is superbly nuanced as the force's grand old man. Kim Basinger, portrays a prostitute, torn between Ed and Bud, won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role.

               Dante Spinotti's widescreen lensing does the rest to convey a growing city's moral contamination. While the day light scenes are awash in light, giving them a saturated look that contributes to the overall sense of decay, the nighttime scenes are shot in such a way as to highlight the contrast between light and dark. "L.A. Confidential" brings together everything that is great about the movies. With an involving story that keeps our attention from the first frame, the the movie brings the thrill of corruption crackingly to life. 

               L.A. Confidential had the misfortune of being released in the same year as Titanic, the second most financially successful film ever. However, even though it was Titanic that walked away with major awards at the 1998 Oscars, Titanic will be remembered as a well made special effects driven film, while L.A. Confidential will be remembered as a masterpiece for ages.


L.A. Confidential - IMDb


Haricharan Pudipeddi said...

A brilliant review once again. L.A... is one of my favourtie films. Have you watched 'Black Dahlia'? Would love to read your review on that film!

Arun Kumar said...

Thanks for the comment, Haricharan. Haven't watched "Black Dahlia." Will watch it soon and write a review.

சேகர் said...

Arun, your review is super...

Unknown said...

I think I might watch this movie. Thank you for this review.

Murtaza Ali Khan said...

One of my all time favorite Hollywood movies. A great tribute to Film-Noir. Your review as always is superb :-)

Anonymous said...

Good review !

Arun Kumar said...

@Sekar, Thank you. Keep visiting the blog.

@Shalu Sharma, Thanks for the comment.

@Murtaza, Thank you. A wonderful tribute, but it is rare nowadays, to find a perfect Neo-noir.

@themoonstone, Thank you. Keep visiting.