Thursday, February 22, 2018

Movie Review: "L.A. Confidential" (1997)

Director: Curtis Hanson
Rating: R
Oscar Nominations: 9
Oscar Wins: 2
Running Time: 2 hours, 18 minutes

Three cops with very different ways of doing business look into a mass murder that took place at a late night diner. As they look further into the incident, it may turn out to be more than just a simple robbery gone wrong.

Ah, the 1950s, a time when the police didn't let pesky little things like civil rights get in the way of finding their perp...or at least their scapegoat. "L.A. Confidential" is directed by Curtis Hanson, who has helmed other films like "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle," "River Wild," and "8 Mile." He also helped write the screenplay along with Brian Helgeland. It is based on the novel of the same name by James Ellroy. It stars Guy Pearce as a straight-laced career-climbing cop named Ed Exley, who does everything by the book and will not hesitate to rat out fellow officers who bend the rules. Joining him is Russell Crowe as Bud White, a violent cop who is willing to bend or straight-up breaks the rules whenever necessary in order to find a perpetrator. Lastly, we have Kevin Spacey as Jack Vincennes, a narcotics cop-turned-vice agent who is a consultant on a television cop show and enjoys the fame and limelight that comes with it. Jack tends to make deals with tabloid reporters to keep his name in the papers. These three cops, who each have an entirely different approach to their job, all wind up looking into a robbery and mass murder at the Night Owl Diner. One of the victims of this crime was Bud's partner Dick Stensland, played by Graham Beckel. Also in the film are Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, James Cromwell, and David Strathairn.

This neo-noir crime thriller is not only set in the 1950s but also somehow captures the very essence of 1950s filmmaking. It is modern in many ways when it comes to its levels of violence, sex, and language, but there is still a very "classic film" feel to the way it looks, to the way characters act, and to the way dialogue is delivered. "L.A. Confidential" is a movie with a lot of characters and a lot of threads that eventually all come together, though the road to get to its conclusion is a little bumpy and disjointed at times. That being said, the overall story remains very compelling. The film explores themes like police corruption and abuse of power, especially how prevalent they were back in the day...if you follow the news, it's painfully clear that practices such as planting evidence and abusing suspects are things that still happen way too frequently today.

The acting in the film is very good. Russell Crowe plays the raging ball of fury character quite well. Hard-nosed brute is a role he has revisited numerous times in his career (and has also revisited outside of it... what? We are already blocked by the guy on Twitter, so we might as well get our digs in, right?). This movie also served as a breakout role for Guy Pearce here in the states. He would use this as a launching pad to get much more work stateside, and we think this was the perfect role for him. Pearce is great as Exley even if he's a narc. Though this film is very focused on the men and the police officers in the story, it was Kim Basinger who took home an Academy Award for her best-supporting-actress role as celebrity lookalike prostitute Lynn Bracken. She is very good in her part, but we aren't sure it was an Oscar-worthy performance, especially considering the caliber of talent nominated that year.

In the end, there is a lot of intrigue in "L.A. Confidential," along with some solid performances, some interesting dialogue and plot points, and a helluva lot of blood.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 99%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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