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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 Jerry Saravia
No Rating Supplied

"L.A. Confidential" is the densest and most complex crime film since "Chinatown." It is richly satisfying, brutally compelling and slickly acted and directed, and one of the best films of the year.

Based on James Ellroy's novel, "L.A. Confidential" is set during the early 1950's when L.A. was the mythical "city of angels" where nuclear families existed, orange groves filled the countryside, and movie stars and celebrities were in the spotlight. It was also a time when police corruption was rampant and racism was beginning to boil over everywhere. Guy Pearce stars as a young cop, Exley, who is eager to become a detective in the very corrupt police system because he believes that a cop should have strong morals and values and follow rules by-the-book - he doesn't believe in beating a confession out of a suspect. Russell Crowe stars as the tough detective White who is just the opposite - he beats confessions out of suspects, he beats up abusive men involved in drunken domestic violence cases, etc. The unlikely pair become embroiled in a murder case at an all-night diner where a cop was killed - a group of inner-city blacks may have been responsible. It turns out they may have been set up by someone in the police force, but who? The brutal Irish police captain (James Cromwell) is unsure of Exley's capacity as a detective especially since he's ratted out all the cops who beat up a few illegal Mexican immigrants. Exley is hated by everyone in the force but does he have the guts to deal with everyday brutality like White has?

Then there's Det. Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), a charming, impish cop who takes extra cash on the side whenever he provides tip-offs or juicy details within the department to the unctuous Sid Huggens (Danny DeVito), a reporter who writes for "Hush, Hush," a scandal magazine that offers gossip and crimes sold to the public for thrills, like today's tabloid shows. Vincennes also moonlights as a technical adviser for a TV show called "Badge of Honor" (a nod to "Dragnet"). Meanwhile as the murder case unfolds, White discovers a connection to a sultry call girl, Lynn Bracken (the better-than-ever Kim Basinger) who works for a prosperous pimp (David Strathairn) - he provides a very kinky service where women are "cut" to resemble movie stars such as Veronica Lake. White interrogates Lynn and falls in love with her, but is Exley interested in her too?

"L.A. Confidential" is an amazing movie full of plot twists, dozens of subplots, and numerous vignettes. Director Curtis Hanson (who co-wrote the script with Brian Helgeland) provides a dazzling ride making us feel as if we have been transported back into the 1950's as he unravels the web of corruption that leads from the police department to politicians, criminals, pimps, mobsters and the traditional femme fatale. Still, this movie is not quite film noir because we have two traditional heroes, the handsome Exley and the rugged White, who overcome all odds and, to no one's surprise, find the killers (I just won't tell you who the culprit is). The film is not quite on the level of "Chinatown" but it is a more vivid experience than the fatuous "Cop Land."

"L.A. Confidential" has one of the best ensemble casts of the year: we have the witty, reliable Danny DeVito and Kevin Spacey; the effervescent cool of Guy Pearce as Exley who undergoes a transformation in the movie that is thrilling to watch, and the contemplative, explosive nature of White as played by the magnetic Russell Crowe (both are Australian actors). Kim Basinger is at her best here since "Batman" with an alluring and sensitive side that brings enormous pathos to her character.

"L.A. Confidential" is a fast-paced, cynical, dirty, violent, mean and thoroughly entertaining tapestry of a different period where innocence was more prevalent but underneath, corruption and evil still roamed the streets.

Copyright 1997 Jerry Saravia

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