Order the DVD L. A. Confidential
Article added in January 1999
Based on the novel by James Ellroy (written 1988/89), L. A. Confidential
(1997) is one of our favourite movies of recent years and an exception
since most of the other excellent films of the 90s are (sometimes dark)
comedies like Groundhog Day, Fargo or Jackie Brown.
According to Ellroy, Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson brilliantly condensed
the story. The 1997 Oscar for the Best Adapted Sreenplay is more than deserved.
There is trouble in paradise - because of Cohen and his
mob. Sid Mudgen's
(Danny DeVito) Hush Hush tabloid magazine knows these stories. Some
very different LAPD officers are there to end this. Among them: officer
Bud White (Russel Crowe). He interrupts a family dispute. He is a guy with
a good heart - especially for women - but he uses violent methods. Another
officer is Sgt. Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), also known as 'Big Vince'
or 'Big V'. He is clever and cynical. A slightly corrupt man with no illusions
who sells information to Hush Hush and knows how to put himself
in the best light. The intellectually most brilliant officer of his generation
is Sgt. Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), the son of a legendary famous officer. He
is in a certain sense clean, but also ambitious. As the other police officers
try to beat up arrested gangsters, he unsuccessfully tries to stop them.
Hush gets the pictures of the beating. Ed Exley knows how to take profit
from this incident. He is ready to testify against his colleagues despite
the fact that he will be despised by the department: 'Silence and integrity
are not the same', he says. But he also tells his superiors to shift the
guilt to men whose pensions are secure and force them to retire. Secure
jail time to the officers Richard 'Dick' Stensland (Graham Beckel) and
Bud White, the message will be clear for the media and the public. Exley's
superiors agree on Stensland, but not on valuable Bud White (who by the
way is young - an illogical detail). Ed Exley gets promoted lieutenant
- he even dares to ask for detective lieutenant - and he gets it since
the department and the public need role-models. The superiors need 'Big
Vince' to testify against against Stensland. They put pressure on him but
he is a tough guy. Again, Ed Exley knows how to get 'Big V': with the promise
of the Badge of Honour.
Captain Dudley Smith (James Cromwell) is a ruthless
superior. He likes
and uses Bud White's tendency to resolve problems with violent methods.
After drug-mob-boss Cohen gets killed, a wave of gang assassinations follows.
According to Hush Hush, the rumour has it that the LAPD is involved.
In fact, Captain Dudley and Bud White are among the men behind the cleaning
up. Stensland is out of the job as police officer. He tells Bud White:
'I got a date. It's confidential. Like that magazine Hush Hush.'
A brilliant story unfolds - interpreted by excellent
actors. Kim Basinger
as Lynn Bracken even got an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress in 1997. She
is not bad in her role as a glamourous movie-star lookalike prostitute
- she is the character who knows the truth about the others and about herself.
Does she deserve an Oscar? No. But some of the other actors are simply fantastic. Director Curtis Hanson wanted
new, unknown actors. He chose
two Australians for a period movie taking place in L.A.! Hanson had seen
Russell Crowe (Bud White) in Romper Stomper where he played a neo-nazi.
And Guy Pearce's performance as Ed Exley is simply stunning. Among the
already well-known actors Kevin Spacey is convincing as 'the man who little
by little has lost his soul'. Dean Martin is singing Smile, Smile, Smile
when 'Big V' (Spacey) looks in the bar mirror with his $50 bribe in his
hand thinking about what he has become.
Hanson shot L. A. Confidential in 45 ordinary locations that
are casual in their period look. He uses the decor as background. The only
- intended - glamourous exception is Kim Basinger. Hanson wanted the characters
and their emotions in the center. Unlike film noir, there are no
highly stylized characters, decor or lighting with long dark shadows. Hanson
gave L. A. Confidential a naturalistic look. He also wanted the
audience to understand where the light was coming from. Great films are
based on great stories, excellent actors and a director who knows how to
put it together. If there is a perfect movie, this is it.
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Get the brillant book L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy from Amazon.com,