Spoilers! LA Confidential (1997) is a neo-noir film based on the book by James Ellroy (need to read it!) and directed by Curtis Hanson. Kim Basinger won her first Oscar with this movie for best supporting actor and it was well deserved too. The film also featured the US debut of two Australian actors: Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe. What hooked me into this movie right away was the very first scene where Bud White (Russell Crowe) is parked in front of a house on the street and is staring at a parolee beating his wife. It’s Christmas. Bud gets out of his car and walks up to the house and stops short of the front door. He pulls the reindeer lights off the roof which makes this loud crashing noise. Of course the guy comes running out of the house and says,
Wife Beater: Who in the hell are you?
Bud White: The ghost of Christmas past. Why don’t you dance with a man for a change?
That scene right there is what made me a fan of this movie immediately. Of course it is well worth watching to the last suspenseful scene. LA Confidential is gritty and dark. This was adapted from the third book in James Ellroy’s L.A. quartet series. The film explores the dark side of Los Angeles during the 1950′s. Dirty cops and corrupt politicians are just about everywhere. There’s an escalation of violence that’s drug related. There’s scandal and sex. Danny De Vito plays this sleazy tabloid reporter, Sid Hudgeons, who generates many enemies in Hollywood because he’s always getting the exclusive on their most devastating secrets and making them public knowledge. He works in league with a sleazy cop, Jack Vincennes as portrayed by Kevin Spacey. Vincennes is also a technical adviser on a TV show about a cop that was written after him. To his credit, Vincennes actually develops a conscious later in the film but it was too little, too late.
I re-watched this movie last night and it still holds up well. There is a complex mystery to solve that has a lot of different little pieces that add up to make a whole. I loved loved the suspense that culminated to the denouement. Kim Bassinger’s role seemed rather subtle yet effective. She’s a prostitute cut to look like a Hollywood actress. She has a romance with Bud White (Russell Crowe). I liked how Bud White and Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) join forces after starting off despising each other. I must go back and explain. Ed is hated by his fellow cops because he snitches on them. A jailhouse fight breaks out between the cops and the prisoners and makes headline news. The department is left figuring out how to respond. Exley volunteers to testify against all involved making many of the old timers including Bud White’s partner lose their jobs. He even gets Vincennes to snitch with a cheap threat to his beloved TV show. That was hilarious.
Ed is clever and ambitious though. A bit straight-laced and by the book. He’s kind of an annoying character *g* Early on it’s shown how ambitious Exley is going so far as to be a pariah on the police force to move up the career ladder. He wants to be a detective just like his father. Captain Dudley Smith (James Cromwell) keeps telling Exely that he doesn’t have what it takes to be a detective. Someone who’s tough and willing to cross the line and answer yes to some of those questions that he couldn’t. Exley is a good cop though but his fight with the other side makes him cross the line in the end. This is a great movie that has held up well.
In closing I had to laugh in shock at this BBC 4 video I found on YouTube where James Ellroy gives his final thoughts on the film version of LA Confidential. I’m not really familiar with Ellroy as some of you are. He seems to be a rather interesting writer. He speaks the truth though! Warning: language.