L.A. Confidential is what Lee Tamahori’s 1996 Mulholland Falls should have been. L.A. Confidential is a tight and well-written film about a group of men, some cops, that all lead a ring of corruption.
L.A. Confidential follows three cops. The three cops are completely different from each other. Two start off as enemies but end up working together and saving each other. Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) is a crooked cop who has forgotten why he’s become a cop. He earns extra cash giving information to Sid Hudgeons (Danny DeVito) who is the publisher of a trashy magazine Hush-Hush. Vincennes is also the advisor for a cop TV show. Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) is a straight cop who does everything by the book. He’s also a good politician and knows how to get what he wants out of his department. Bud White (Russell Crowe) is a cop haunted by his past and is now taking every chance to try to correct what happened in the past, fully knowing that he can’t.
L.A. Confidential takes it’s full two and half-hours to create its wonderfully layered story. Sitting through the first hour I wondered what the real conflict was. This was not because the script was unclear, but because there are so many threads of story spun up in the first hour that I was unable to figure out how they can all come together. As the film moved into its second hour all the threads that were started in the first hour start to tie together, and I was pulled into L.A. Confidential’s engrossing tale of corrupt cops.
L.A. Confidential is an adaptation of James Ellroy’s book by Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland. The script is the best thing about L.A. Confidential. It is a tight script, that with the great direction from Curtis Hanson (The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, The River Wild), winds its way through the two and half-hours without losing the audience’s attention.
L.A. Confidential has a gritty look to it, which Hanson uses to build a wonderfully dark atmosphere. But, unlike other movies, which depend on atmosphere to carry them, L.A. Confidential shows that it can out do them and have a tight script, genuine acting, and atmosphere.
If the script is the driving force of the film then the three leads carry the film. All three are great. Spacey, like always, is a strange character that one cannot really grasp what is going on in his head while watching what his is doing. Spacey has a wonderful screen presence that is both intense and relaxed. Pearce does a good job with his role but is not much to write home about. The real great performance in L.A. Confidential is Crowe’s. Crowe who has starred in smaller films, and was really unknown to me until L.A. Confidential, steals every scene that he is in. His tough guy cop is an immensely likable guy and though he uses some strong-arming to get what he wants from the criminals, we always know that he’s doing it for the good of L.A. and we can agree with what he does. Crowe does a good job at switching between his calm-guy to mean-guy demeanor and he is the one to watch for when you see L.A. Confidential.
Worth mentioning is James Cromwell (Babe, Star Trek: First Contact) who was so nice and enjoyable in Star Trek: First Contact, but here in L.A. Confidential he is a different man. A man filled with hate and evil, and when you look into his eyes as he portrays Captain Dudley Smith, it gives you a shiver.
Also worth mentioning is Jerry Goldsmith’s score for the film. Goldsmith’s score is so well done that it is there but not distracting from the action on the screen. And it is also worth mentioning that this is, so far, Goldsmith’s third score of 1997.
L.A. Confidential is a great film about corrupt cops. It’s too bad that L.A. Confidential hasn’t had much advertising behind it. This is a great film and is a pleasant surprise for me. It has a first hour that spins up many threads of plot that eventually tie up into a tight cohesive story. The build up for the story is long but the pay-off is well worth it. Don’t miss L.A. Confidential in the theatres.