L.A. Confidential (1997) – Curtis Hanson

Before we dive in to this one, I want to admit that yes, this one is sullied now because of Kevin Spacey, it doesn’t however change the fact that this is a fantastic film.

Chinatown is the next big recommendation from DK Canada’s The Movie Book, but as I’ve covered it previously I jumped right into the What Else to Watch list, and found this modern film noir classic.

Based on James Ellroy’s convoluted novel, Brian Hegeland and Curtis Hanson streamline the story into riveting film about bad cops, drugs, and prostitutes being cut to look like movie stars.

Set in the 50s, the cast, the sets, the costumes look great. The violence when it happens is sudden and brutal, and the dialogue is equally intense.

Besides Spacey, the film includes Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kim Bassinger, James Cromwell, Danny DeVito, and David Strathairn. There is a lot going on with these characters, Pearce is straight-laced cop Ed Exley, Crowe is Bud White, a violent thug of a cop who believes in his own brand of justice, and Spacey is Jack Vincente, a flashy cop who works as a technical adviser on a television series.

Soon, the trio are caught up in mystery of drugs and murder, that is woven into the very fabric of Los Angeles. There is the illusion of law, and the need for justice, and no one is a simply black and white character, there are layers within layers, and you’re never quite sure who to trust.

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Sid Hudgens (DeVito) zeroes us in on important information, through a voice-over reading the articles of the magazine he publishes, Hush-Hush, and as threads begin to unravel, we realize, that the darkness that permeates the sunny streets of L.A. is embedded in its very infrastructure.

This is a beautiful, modern film noir (still one of my favorite genres), and all of the actors seem at ease in their roles, and the fantastic clothes of the time. The film walked away with Oscars for Bassinger, for Best Supporting, and a Best Adapted Screenplay. It was also nominated for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Art Direction, Sound, Editing, and Score.

That was the year that Titanic swept at the Oscars, however. Looking back, I think Confidential should have taken it over Cameron’s melodrama (no matter how stunning it looked).

This is a film that I can rewatch at the drop of a hat (which doesn’t happen as often as one thinks – so it’s been awhile) and i enjoy it each and every time, there is so much going on in the film, and it’s interesting to note that some of the event in the story took their inspiration from real life.

The film is an interesting watch because despite the fact that you know that Exley is supposedly the hero, he’s so by the book to begin with that the audience can’t always identify with him, and White is so violent that you’re not sure you want to identify with him.

It doesn’t keep the viewer at a distance watching the film, but it keeps one on edge and uncomfortable. This one (despite Spacey – whose character in the film is one of my faves) is one to revisit if you haven’t, and if you’ve never seen it. It’s time.

Or, pick up a copy of DK Books’ The Movie Book and find something amazing to watch tonight!

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