L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997) 

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Kevin Spacey
Kim Basinger
Russell Crowe
Guy Pearce
Danny DeVito
James Cromwell
David Straithern
Ron Rifkin
Matt McCoy
Paul Guilfoyle
Paolo Seganti

Curtis Hanson




Original Novel

Time: 110 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Mystery/Romance/Drama

Won Academy Awards for Supporting Actress and Adapted Screenplay. Nominations for Best Art Direction, Cinematography, Director, Film Editing, Score, Sound and Best Picture.

LA CONFIDENTIAL is a rare cinema treat filled great acting, clever writing and an intriguing story that unravels with exquisite pleasure. A well-plotted murder mystery, this movie draws you into a seductive world of betrayal and corruption where nothing is as it first seems. An overly talented cast creates memorable characters that will stick in your mind for days. Some people may dismiss this film as slow and confusing, I found it to be a joy to watch. A film that not only has an amazingly interesting story to tell, but also captures the nuances and essence of a certain time in history.

Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe and Guy Pierce put their prodigious acting muscles on display as police detectives in Los Angeles in the early 1950's. They each have their own style – Spacey is friendly yet slightly crooked, Crowe uses his brawn before his brain and Pierce is an up-and-comer who knows how to play the game though can't stomach the violence intrinsic within it. Those in charge have one main motivation: to protect the newly positive reputation of Los Angeles as a land of paradise with unlimited opportunities. These men are forced to work together to hide the city's vast underbelly of crime from the eyes of the world. They do it because it's their duty, however, there is no love lost between them.

Pierce's character's meteoric rise within the department gets an additional boost when he rats out a group of fellow officers for breaking the rules, which makes him even less popular with the regular cops. He also gets acclaim from his superiors for supposedly solving the "Night Owl" murder case – a seemingly random massacre in a local diner. However, there's something about the Night Owl murders that doesn't sit well with him. After consulting Crowe, who's partner was one of the victims, they both start doing a little secret snooping into the now closed case. They each use their own methods of police work to come to the conclusion that the men in jail for the murders were not involved after all. Soon there's no way out as the clues begin to uncover corruption and murder at an unthinkable level, forcing them into a fight for their lives.

"Don't start tryin' to do the right thing, boy-o. You haven't the practice."

A deeply engrossing tale, LA CONFIDENTIAL hits all the right notes, building the mystery and revealing its secrets at the perfect pace – exactly when you're begging for more. By seeing the investigation from both Crowe and Pierce's points of view, we become aware of the deeper threads long before they're able to put them together themselves. It's masterfully done, which makes me wonder how people could be confused. Moviegoers are rarely asked by filmmaker's to actually use our brains these days, so I can understand why the plot may have tasked some viewers. However, even though we are let in on the scandal, one has to actually connect the dots for the finer points to make sense. How mean of them, making us think.

A cast like this must have brought daily joy to director Curtis Hanson. The characters not only have flaws, they expose and revel in them. Spacey, Crowe and Pierce are three of the best actors of this generation, building living, breathing human beings. Each of them gives such a uniquely intense performance, I don't know which I liked better. Pierce certainly has the showy, heroic role as a man willing to sacrifice his career, soul and life to hold onto his integrity. His role weaves the story together. Spacey has a small part, but he makes the most of it. Though not what most people would consider a good guy, he still manages to make his sleazy cop likable. Crowe begins his trail of outstanding Hollywood roles with his brilliant turn as the lug with a brain and a heart-of-gold. He may not have much to say, but when he does look out. Even Kim Basinger takes your breath away, and that's saying something.

With an ending both logical and satisfying, this film earns a place as one of the best of the year. Hanson creates a first rate drama with impeccable acting, art direction and storytelling. The locations, costumes and cinematography perfectly capture this supposedly innocent, yet secretly seedy time in Hollywood. The editing sets the perfect pace for a complicated murder mystery to unravel. It's no wonder this film is winning a lot of the critics awards. Films this meticulously crafted don't come around very often. Unfortunately, it may be too smart for it's own good come Oscar time. For those of you searching for great cinema, look no further.

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