As of today, October 6, 1997, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL is the
best film I've seen in a theater this year. By far. I've gotten so used to
formula hash like EXCESS BAGGAGE and SPEED 2 that when an
intelligent, suspenseful, absorbing action drama like this comes along,
I feel privileged. So often when I take the time and money to go to a
theater, I lose IQ points on the drivel that is tossed at me. That's not to
say there isn't highly entertaining drivel out there; it's just much better
to see something original and unpredictable that makes you think but
never bores you.
L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, a noirish film adapted from the James
Ellroy novel, is one of those movies it seems impossible not to like.
>From its very opening, it sucks you in and never cuts corners. Set in
the 1950s, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL paints a portrait of a corrupt police
department (nice to know LAPD has been corrupt for _decades_, isn't
it?) whose sense of brotherhood and greed overrides any real sense of
justice, although all the lies and evidence planting are done in the
name of justice. The police captain (James Cromwell) explains this to
an ambitious sergeant (Guy Pearce) just before he is faced with the
decision of whether to rat on some of his fellow officers.
On Christmas Eve, a few Mexican immigrants are hauled into
the station. Some officers, buzzing from the spiked eggnog, decide to
whip the hell out of them. (This always occurs on the eleventh day of
Christmas, by the way.) Pearce is the only objector and the only one
willing to testify, the only officer in the entire precinct who wants to be
an honest cop. Russell Crowe plays his polar opposite, an all-muscle-
and-no-brain cop who loves to administer brutal justice to wife beaters.
Crowe turns down Cromwell's request to testify against his partner,
who is to be used as the fall guy for the Yuletide Immigrant Bashing
The partner gets suspended, then he gets killed. Bad day.
Pearce gets to the scene of the crime first and is put on the
investigation, while Crowe begins to orchestrate an extracurricular
revenge investigation. Pearce arrests three black men who were seen in
the area with the guns, but it's obvious the case doesn't end there (and,
again, it's nice to know LAPD has framed black men for _decades_).
It involves a few of the movie's colorful non-police characters.
There's a millionaire (David Strathairn) who makes some of
his profit pimping hookers who have been surgically altered to
resemble Hollywood starlets. Kim Basinger plays the Veronica Lake
look-alike (the Lake-alike, you might call her) whom Crowe falls for,
and Danny DeVito takes his weasel persona to new heights as the
publisher of Hush-Hush, a rag that prints lurid crime stories. DeVito
is tipped off to these crime exclusives by one of the officers (Kevin
To reveal anything more would spoil some of the fun, since
at least half of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL's appeal lies in the intricacies of
the crime story. The direction, from Curtis Hanson (taking a break
from his "MMMBop" world tour), is stylish and colorful, in grand '50s
style, and the acting is wonderful from all sides. The people you know
will be great -- Spacey, Basinger, DeVito -- are, but the movie belongs
to the two complicated cops, played by Pearce and Russell. I loved
everything about this movie.
Copyright © 1997 Andrew Hicks