L.A. Confidential (1997) (R)

The Los Angeles Police Department was glamorized through television. People saw all the cops catching their bad guys and obeying a high moral code. There was no swearing, no drinking or smoking, no affairs, and certainly no shady back door hand shakes.
That's when we are told that our view of the City of Angels is flawed—L.A. is full of prostitutes, gamblers, and crooked cops.
Sid Hudgens works for "Hush-Hush" magazine and gets his stories from narc officer Jack Vincennes. Vincennes will give Hudgens some tips for money and then will get front page headlines that booster his ego. Jack is a man who doesn't enjoy looking in the mirror, he's a big man when he's not looking straight into his own eyes—an act reminds him that he's not invincible or flawless.
Then there's Bud White, the kind of man who doesn't mind getting his sleeves dirty if it's for "justice". Bud is a Sam Spade character, but on a leash.
Edmund J. Exley is the by-the-book man whose knowledge of how people tick launches him up the hierarchy of officers. Every hair in place, he's the essence of efficiency and order.
These four men round out the central core of the movie and represent each side of the shady city of Los Angeles. There's justice, corruption, lime light, morals, temptation, and intelligence—these are the things that our four men represent.
"L.A. Confidential" is a noir piece of film, it comes later than "Chinatown" and is exponentially more mysterious, though both have a similar flaw.
Much like the Sherlock Holmes stories, "L.A. Confidential" is almost impossible to predict, that is, predict who the bad guy is and why. You may have guessed who was the villain but you won't have enough information to know why he/she is the corrupt one.
It's a bit manipulative, a story that is based completely and entirely in plot and not emotion. I was not moved by the picture, I'm not sure it was intended to be that way.
The plot of the movie is filled with twists and turns and some catchy one-liners that escaped modern day vernacular.
The cast of "L.A. Confidential" is one of the best—I find that I say that a lot—Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger, James Cromwell, and Danny Devito.
My personal favorites of the movie are Guy Pearce and Kevin Spacey who let enough intrigue show in their characters that give them a human feeling. I felt like Russell Crowe was good, but not convincing.
There are a few qualms I have with "L.A. Confidential" and most of those are too trivial to put into words.
Rapid jumps and cuts to different characters are what give this crime drama a ferocious momentum. It's the one thing that really drives the film home.
"L.A. Confidential" is not flattering to either the police force, nor to Los Angeles and it saves itself from complete preachiness by setting the film in a different time.
Things were supposedly different in the past—not so, I feel. This film comes across as warning against corruption in the legal system, with a touch of plot.
Though the trumpets and sax score the soundtrack and the piano chords are low and dark in typical noir fashion, the film doesn't convince you of the 1950s. It has remnants of Martin Scorsese, most of which are reflected in montage sections, but it doesn't have his tenacity.
"L.A. Confidential" is really enjoyable. Not perfect but not failing.

Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your rating of this one. However, I disagree with you on the matter of characters. Kevin Spacey is simply the man. There is no criticizing him and being correct. Guy Pierce and Russel Crowe were both phenomenal, however, I disliked Guy Pierce's character immensely. I felt like he was supposed to be the protagonist with super high and uncompromising morals, but he ignored those whenever he felt like it suited him. Crowe's, Budd White, on the other hand, had a very strict albeit harsh code of ethics that he upholds throughout the movie. Crowe's portrayal, in my humble opinion, was by far the most moving part of the film. I was rooting for him the whole time, whereas I didn't particularly care for Exley.