Director: Curtis Hanson
Based on L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy
Writer: Brian Helgeland
Also starring: Kevin Spacey (Jack Vincennes), Guy Pearce (Ed Exley), Kim Basinger (Lynn Bracken), Danny DeVito (Sid Hudgens) James Cromwell (Capt. Dudley Smith), David Strathairn (Pierce Patchett)

"Crowe, one of the most interesting young actors alive, merely smolders. "L.A. Confidential" picks up speed and intensity as these two young cops -- they utterly loathe one other -- come to realize they're bound together by their interest in the same enigmatic case. Increasingly isolated from the rest of the force, they're all each other's got." (from

My reaction to this film is awfully difficult to separate from my reaction to the long overdue appearance of Russell Crowe in a splashy Stateside release ("withpostersandpreviewsandcoolactorsand GOOD WRITING..." "Sit down, we're trying to watch the movie..." "but but but... there he is! See? SEE? Ain't he COOL!!!!" "Shhhh.... they're going to throw us out of here if you don't sit down...") but I will try.

A story rarely needs to be on screen the way this one does. I am a sucker for self-conscious art, for stories that refract themselves into the minutiae of sub plots and expand into the hemisphere of their own super-text. This one does all that. I mean really, a movie about the hollywoodism of California ("between the two of you, you should bring a photographer"), the imitation of Scandal Sheet posterimitation (plastic surgery to make women look like actresses who are imitating someone else...), the subjectivity of justice ("'ll look like justice."), the raw greed at the bottom of it all. And right through the middle of it, a perfect thread of dramatic character development: three cops change course sharply mid-story and move beyond their personal agendas. As Bud White finds strange peace with a woman who emphatically does not need his protection, Jack Vincennes finds himself moved by one of the innocent pawns he manipulates daily, and Ed Exley hears the bald truth about his unwitting role in the corruption he so despises.
The next scene looks like a simple confessional between lovers, but in light of its placement, I see it as a glimpse into that psychic inner child: characters confused by the insubstantial lies they have lived by are cut loose to follow their instincts. This is where unpredictable behavior comes from, where characters find the motivation to break from familiar patterns, as Bud, Lynn, Ed, Jack all do. Here commences an energetic denouement like few films achieve.
If you haven't seen it, see it. If you have seen it and you wondered what the big deal was about (I mean aside from those heart-stopping performances, that marvelous period flavor that redefines the period for kids who grew up on Happy Days...), for me this about covers the big deal. Besides, it uses brown well.

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