#285 LA Confidential

(1997, Curtis Hanson)
“It’ll look like justice. That’s what the man got. Justice.”

For some reason, this review appears to be missing from the spot it’s supposed to be in, and I don’t know what went wrong. So please forgive it from posted way out of order, I only just discovered this!

I love me some detective thrillers. I love detectives and mystery and crime and thrillers so much that I think I might marry the entire genre one day. So I’m happy today because I get to review a nice little classic crime thriller. Happy days.

LA Confidential is about three detectives that get involved in a web of corruption and deceit following a mass murder at a local café called The Nite Owl. Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) is a young sergeant determined to be the most honourable police officer, attempting to live up to his famous detective father. Bud White (Russell Crowe) is a violent cop who likes violently attacking men who beat women, and sees the Nite Owl killings as personal due to the death of his former partner. Finally, Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) is a charming narcotics officer who receives kickbacks for providing information about celebrity arrests to Hush-Hush Magazine, and gets involved when one of his schemes results in the death of a young actor.

LA Confidential is a complicated movie with a lot of subplots and twists and turns, and a lot of characters to keep track of. The Nite Owl Killings are the central aspect to everything that happens in the movie, but there’s so much other stuff happening that sometimes the entire movie threatens to lose focus. There’s a prostitution ring centred on movie star lookalikes, attempts to bring down the drug kingpins of LA, sleaze and corruption stemming from Vincennes and his connection to Hush-Hush Magazine, and sometimes it can be pretty tricky to keep track of.

The good news is, there are some excellent performances to hold all of this together, especially from Kevin Spacey, who is smooth as all hell and pretty much steals the show every time he’s on screen. His story is also the most interesting, and he generally feels like a more interesting character than White or Exley, who are pretty much Generic Angry Cop and By-The-Book Cop Seeking Justice tropes respectively.

Not that Pearce puts in a bad performance either. It’s hard to like him much at the start of the movie, but this is the point since he’s presented as a dick. However, as the movie progresses, Pearce is able to humanise him and make him relatable at last. Crowe, however, is basically Maximus Decimus Meridius as a detective, all punching and angry faces, and is the weakest performance and the weakest characterisation combined.

This is probably why the subplot where he gets involved with a prostitute who looks like Veronica Lake (although personally, I thought she looked more like Kim Basinger…) feels rather hollow and lifeless. The duo have very little chemistry, and White is such a bland character that it’s difficult to get emotionally invested in any relationship he has. It does result in some character development, but only a bit and nothing too spectacular – White slaps her in a heated argument and then reels away in horror because he’s essentially become what he hates most OH MY GOD.

Aesthetically, the movie is great, feeling very much like a moody 1940s film noir (albeit in colour), and it has a great atmosphere. There are also some really well-made action sequences here, from chasing down suspects to a final climactic shootout with the main villain and his crew. LA Confidential really goes to great lengths to make itself look and feel impressive.

And it generally succeeds. I liked LA Confidential. It was a thrilling detective story with some flaws but great atmosphere, great performances and a constantly twisting storyline hold it all together.

Starring Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, David Strathairn, Kim Basinger & Danny DeVito
Written by James Ellroy (novel) and Curtis Hanson & Brian Helgeland
Produced by Curtis Hanson, Arnon Milchan & Michael G. Nathanson
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography by Dante Spinotti
Edited by Peter Honess

Favourite Scene: The reveal of who was behind the Nite Owl killings all along. GASP!
Scene That Bugged Me: Pretty much everything surrounding the Kim Basinger sub-plot.

Watch it if: You like moody detective thrillers
Avoid it if: You can’t bear the thought of Danny DeVito doing narration


Posted on July 13, 2014, in 1990s, Action, Film Noir, Mystery, Thriller and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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