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L.A. Confidential

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: L.A. Confidential

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe
Director: Curtis Hanson
Rated: R
RunTime: 136 Minutes
Release Date: September 1997
Genres: Mystery, Drama, Action, Suspense

*Also starring: James Cromwell, Guy Pearce, David Strathairn, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, Simon Baker

Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
No Rating Supplied

In "L.A. Confidential", James Ellroy's novel of police corruption in 1950's Hollywood becomes a powerful, stylish film with dazzling acting from an exceptional cast. Gorgeous art direction highlights the lurid pulp tone of this complex, violent tale. "L.A. Confidential" is a rarity, a major Hollywood film with smart acting, dialogue and production values that actually works from beginning to end. The noir thriller about rogue cops takes place in 1953, when Los Angeles still seemed glamorous and magical, as opposed to now, where it is simply the worst city on Earth. A major mob boss goes to jail, prompting a feeding frenzy as bad guys scramble for his turf. Meanwhile, a corrupt officer is one of the victims of a grisly coffee shop murder, triggering a massive police investigation. Against this background, we meet Bud White (Russell Crowe), an attack dog cop with a unique personal moral code; Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), a slick operator who collaborates with a scandal magazine to insure high-profile arrests; and Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), a self-righteous prig who knows how to work departmental politics to further his own agenda. The art direction of "L.A. Confidential" is spectacular, perfectly recreating a picture-postcard Hollywood. Director Curtis Hanson uses the sets masterfully, layering realistic bits of detail over the splashy backdrops to simultaneously accentuate and offset the sense of glamour. "L.A. Confidential" features near-flawless acting from its large ensemble cast. Russell Crowe ("Romper Stomper", "Virtuosity") gives an Oscar- caliber performance as Bud White, a great bull of a man who has learned to slug, rather than think his way through situations. Initially, White seems to be a simple thug, but there's far more to him than meets the eye.

Guy Pearce ("Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert") is striking as the sanctimonious Ed Exley. His most impressive moment comes during an interrogation scene, where his manipulative skills while grilling a trio of suspects is both repellent and mesmerizing. As Jack Vincennes, star-struck technical advisor for a "Dragnet"-style TV series, Kevin Spacey ("The Usual Suspects") demonstrates why he is one of the most respected actors anywhere. Spacey has a great face, and he uses his craggy features to convey just what happens when a man trades his morals for the spotlight. Kim Basinger is also strong in her best role in years, as a high-priced call girl who becomes involved with White. Basinger does fine work adding nuance to a character who is basically a live-action Jessica Rabbit. Surprisingly, the film's only shaky performance comes from veteran actor James Cromwell ("Babe") as Capt. Dudley Smith. Cromwell plays his character well, but inexplicably jumps back and forth between American and Irish accents. In the future, James, pick a country and stick with it.

With nods to "Pulp Fiction" and "Chinatown", "L.A. Confidential" is complicated, but never muddy. The complex tale is told in a straightforward fashion, resulting in an utterly engrossing piece of filmmaking. The movie was a sensation at the Cannes Film Festival and come next March, should draw a lot of attention at the Academy Awards as well.

Copyright 1997 Edward Johnson-Ott

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