Los Angeles, the home of movie making, is itself an appealing setting for crime dramas, often with a tinge of Hollywood mystery thrown in for the mix. Yesterday, this column reviewed “The Usual Suspects,” an Oscar winning crime thriller from the 1990s that starred Kevin Spacey and took place in LA. In 1997, the gifted actor starred in “L.A. Confidential,” a taut crime film based on James Ellroy’s novel of the same name that earned two Academy Awards.
Set in the 1950s, "L.A. Confidential" focuses on the on duty and off duty lives of several cops whose lives intersect when they investigate a bloody shooting at a diner. The quite violent and ill-tempered Bud White (played by Russell Crowe) relishes punishing men who abuse women. Shaped by his policeman father’s reputation, Edmund Exley (played by Guy Pearce) is ruthless in his efforts to work his way up the department food chain, antagonizing the brotherhood when he rats on other cops. The flamboyant narcotics detective Jack Vincennes (played by Spacey), augments his salary by serving as a technical advisor on a crime-based television show and loves being in the spotlight. Despite their considerable shortcomings, all three are dedicated to their jobs and do everything they can to solve the case.
“L.A. Confidential” has an incredible cast. Crowe, Pearce, and Spacey all nail their roles. Each gives the audience a slightly different flawed, but compelling cop. Kim Basinger’s call girl is both cold and vulnerable. Her performance won an Academy Award. Another good performance is by James Cromwell, who plays the police captain, a man with ambitions of his own.
The film is expertly directed by Curtis Hanson. Employing film noir techniques, he does a great job recreating the 1950s. Also, he does a good job filming action scenes, especially the final shootout.
This movie has a well-written screenplay, which won an Oscar. It has many memorable characters, such as Sid Hudgens (played by Danny DeVito), who runs a magazine on Hollywood sleaze.
“L.A. Confidential” is one of the best films of 1997.