Sunday, November 7, 2010

916. L.A. Confidential (1997)

Running Time: 138 minutes
Directed By: Curtis Hanson
Written By: Brian Helgeland, Curtis Hanosn, from novel by James Elroy
Main Cast: Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kim Basinger, James Cromwell


Checked out "L.A. Confidential" last night for approximately the third time and wasn't AS impressed this time, as I have been in the past. While the acting and characters are good, it's easy to get lost in this sometimes confusing plot.

In "L.A. Confidential" we're dealing with three main characters. Bud White (Crowe) is a tough guy cop, who likes to pound on guys who pound on women, stemming from his abusive father beating his mother. Bud is, for the most part, a good cop, but sometimes will do a crooked act to ensure an arrest. Det. Sgt. Jack Vincennes (Spacey) is more enamored by the police television show that he works on, where he is a consultant, rather than worrying about real police work. Jack also works with magazine writer Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito), as they plot out arrests together so that Sid can get the story and Jack can get the arrests. Det. Lt. Ed Exley (Pearce) is the purest cop that there is on the LAPD and doesn't mind making it a well known fact. During a brawl at the police station that is dubbed "Bloody Christmas", a group of officers are under the gun and are at risk for losing their badges and their pensions. Ed has no problem stepping up to the plate to snitch out his fellow officers and gain the title of detective lieutenant. Once Exley gets what he wants, it's soon after that the Nite Owl coffee shop murders take place, killing former officer Dick Stensland and three others and becoming the talk of the LAPD, as officers and detectives try to track down the perpetrators.


Let's start with the good, shall we? I love the characters and that's really probably the best thing about "L.A. Confidential". You get a pretty eccentric little group of detectives, all with totally different personalities and your opinion of them changes over the course of the film. Take Ed Exley for example: At the beginning of the film, you see Exley as a sniveling little yes-man, who will not break (or even bend) the book for no reason. We see him in comparison with Bud White, who is someone who hates woman beaters. Bud White is a character that the viewer is immediately going to be drawn to, because who in the world likes a woman beater, so we're with White. As the film goes on and we begin to see Exley get a little rougher, in the interrogation room and with his fellow officers, we begin to like him more and more and the his honesty, which we probably hated in the beginning, comes in handy as the plot thickens and we know we have a man we can count on. It's the same with Vincennes: In the beginning we don't like him because he's a bit of an ass-kisser to the stars, who does police work on the side. But as the plot gets heated up, he kicks it up a notch and we come to like him. On top of those three you also got James Cromwell playing a bad guy (something I can't believe HE pulled off), David Strathairn and Danny DeVito.

I love the noir-ish, dirty, dark feel of the whole film too, but what's with that ending? The ending of this movie really felt tacked on, and it should've ended with the interrogation of Ed Exley, as he tells us the real story of the Nite Owl killings. Instead, we're "treated" to a cheap ending that sees Exley get a medal, Exley and White shake hands and Exley and Lynn share sentiments. In my opinion, it didn't fit in with the running darkness of the film and was just a cheap way to send a viewer home happy and feeling warm.

I mentioned a confusing plot and it really isn't that confusing, it's more a case of just a lot going on. I think there are some spots where some of the fat could've been trimmed and the plot could've been kept a little more simple and fun. I'm all for intricacies, but we have a whole lot of information thrown at us in the span of two hours and it's a lot to take in and becomes a bog on the mind, as we try to keep plot points and characters in order and made sense of it all. In fact, one piece of fat that I think really could've been trimmed is the entire "Fleur-de-Lis" storyline. You still could've had Lynn Bracken, she just would've been a regular hooker, instead of a "high class hooker cut to look like a movie star", and you could've trimmed out the Strathairn character (despite the fact that he did a good job) and all of the talk of the rest of the hookers, and everything could've been sewn together and it would've been a lot less to keep in line. The "Fleur-de-Lis" just doesn't turn out to be that much of a plot point anyway, like a lot of things in this movie. There are so many instances where we're given information that pans out to be nothing at all: "The three Negros did the Nite Owl murders! Oh, no they didn't, but they're buying dope and raping women anyway! Oh, but the raped woman lied in her statement! Oh, Ed killed the three Negros!! Oh, they were innocent anyway!" That's the kind of things we're dealing with and it gets frustrating when we follow something that turns out to be nothing, but then again, I guess that's how real police work is.

RATING: 6/10 It's still a good movie, with good characters and good acting and good noir-ish, gritty feel to it. Mildly Recommended.


November 7, 2010 11:12am

1 comment:

  1. As a great fan of 'real' noir, I am often dis-satisfied with 'neo-noir', but this I thought was great. Almost as great as Chinatown. I like your comment that it had that Noir 'dirty' feel to it. Loved the shock shooting of Jack V,and the really creepy portrayal of the Danny DeVito character.


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