Sunday, March 13, 2011
Movie of the Week
L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997)
Starring- Kevin Spacey, Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, Kim Basinger
In the mold of classic film noir, L.A. Confidential is a dark, sticky, aggressive look at the underbelly of 1950's Los Angeles. Penned originally as a book by noir master James Ellroy, the film takes strong characters and puts them in a world of violence, sex and cops. It's your typical Hollywood story. The characters in question are three LAPD officers, who have little in common and must join forces to smoke out a deadly adversary that is trying to monopolize organized crime in L.A. Edmund Exley (Pearce) is an uptight, by-the-book, wannabe hero who scoffs at unorthodox methods. His polar opposite is Bud White (Crowe) who excels as a brutal enforcer with his own code of ethics, and serving as the middle man is the suave celebrity cop, Jack Vincennes (Spacey) who is more concerned with publicity than police work.
Complicating this cop triangle is a beautiful Veronica Lake lookalike played by Kim Basinger who has her own agenda, and the slimy Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito) who tries to use the goings on as fodder for his gossip magazine, Hush-Hush. The filmmakers expertly use classic noir techniques found in films made in the era depicted in L.A. Confidential. Tension and humor trade off as the mystery slowly unfolds amid steamy subplots and violent confrontations. The best of which comes when Exley and White finally have it out in a window and knuckle breaking brawl.
DeVito and Basinger (who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar) are great in their supporting roles, but the real kudos must go to James Cromwell as the avuncular Capt. Dudley Smith, who manages to be the one touchstone for all of the three protagonists. Each cop, including Capt. Smith, is likable and yet unlikable at the same time. Each is deeply flawed- Exley in his smug ambition, White in his thuggish brutality, and Vincennes in his vanity, but they all find ways to overcome these issues to be the cops they are capable of being.
Even though I have seen the film many times, I still can watch it because of the way in which the plot meanders and keeps you guessing up until the very end. While it may just be a modern day knockoff of the old noir thrillers, it is a smart and sexy update of a great genre. I've been waiting to see if another film can revive a forgotten genre like this film did, but I've been disappointed every year since 1997.
Things to watch for-
Fleur De Lis- Whatever you desire
Dragnet knockoff- Badge of Honor
The Nite Owl
"Off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush."