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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 Andrew Hicks
4 stars out of 4

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 party.

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 Spacey).

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

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