Released in 1997 and based on the third novel of James Elroy’s LA quartet, LA Confidential is regarded as something of a masterpiece – quite rightly so in my opinion. Loved by the critics, it also received 9 Academy award nominations and bagged two – best actress in a supporting role for Kim Basinger and best adapted screenplay for Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland. If only it wasn’t up against Titanic, no doubt, it would have won more.
Curtis Hanson’s neo-noir is set in 1950s LA. Three detectives with varying approaches to their profession are investigating a multiple murder at The Night Owl Diner.
Kevin Spacey’s Jack Vincennes is every bit the Hollywood cop – sharply dressed, charming and a technical advisor on a hit TV show, ‘Badge Of Honor’. Vincennes is keen to raise his profile and achieve fame and does this through his connection with Danny DeVito’s Sid Hudgens, a writer for celebrity gossip magazine ‘Hush Hush’. Vincennes’, often staged, arrests of celebrities means he’s frequently in the magazine and in the public eye. Spacey’s performance in the role earned him the number 8 spot in Mark Oakley’s Top 10 films of Kevin Spacey list.
Guy Pearce plays Sergeant Ed Exley who’s following in the footsteps of his father, a legend of the force who was murdered in his prime by Rollo Tomassi (not the Sheffield art-punk band). Exley, driven by his fathers’ murder, is a brilliant officer whose rise through the ranks has been assisted by his strict adherence to rules and regulations as well as a willingness to testify against his colleagues. Following his testimony, Exley takes a position as Detective lieutenant, but is discouraged by Captain Dudley Smith (James Cromwell) who feels that Exley’s reputation as a snitch would compromise his authority over the detectives under his command.
It’s safe to say that Bud White (Russell Crowe) isn’t exactly Exley’s biggest fan. It was Exley’s testimony that led to White’s partner, Dick Stensland’s, dismissal from the force. When Stensland’s body is found amongst those murdered at The Night Owl, White is personally connected to the case. Having earned a reputation as a man to be feared within the LAPD through his preference of employing violent methods and seemingly uncontrollable rage, White has to reevaluate his methods to help him get to the bottom of his former partner’s murder.
Their separate investigations into The Night Owl massacre leads them to uncover corruption within the police department as well as members of the city’s political leadership. Exley is after absolute justice for the massacre, White follows leads that lead him to, Kim Basinger’s, Lynn Bracken, a call girl who’s made to look like a Hollywood star. Vincennes investigates a pornography racket which is linked to The Night Owl and the call girl service, ‘Fleur De Lis’, that Bracken (Bassinger) is part of. Their separate investigations find that their paths are crossed leading into the films climactic showdown.
Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland’s award for best adapted screenplay is well deserved; the film is full of amazing dialogue and is really brought to life by the great ensemble cast. From the stars right down to minor supporting roles, everyone excels in their role. Which is even more impressive considering that there are 80 speaking parts in the movie. Curtis Hanson’s direction and Dante Spinotti’s masterful cinematography capture the feeling of 1950s LA magnificently both in daylight and twilight.
Warner’s have done well with the Blu-ray release; the transfer isn’t perfect but it’s pretty damn close. There are a few faults with the picture here and there but nothing too distracting – especially given that the fact the movie’s over ten years old. Drawing on these faults would just be nit picking, as the attention to detail on display, at times, really is quite remarkable.
The sound’s also very good, you really feel every punch land and I have to admit that the gunfire made me jump on more than one occasion.
ExtrasThere are plenty of extras for your viewing pleasure; you get several making of documentaries ranging from 8-30 minutes, which are all worth a look. There’s a pilot for the LA Confidential TV series, which sees Kiefer Sutherland take on the role Kevin Spacey’s Jack Vincennes. It’s quite awful but worth a look. You also get several trailers and an audio commentary, which isn’t so much a commentary, it’s more of a lot of different interviews and soundbites played throughout the movie – fairly interesting, if a little distracting. Oh, and you also have the option of a music-only track, which lets you listen to Jerry Goldsmith’s score without the interruption of all that dialogue etc, if the mood takes you.
The movie’s a masterpiece, the transfer is very good and there’s a generous array of extras. I’ve seen this on sale in numerous places for around £10, which is an absolute bargain, in my opinion. A must buy.