L.A. Confidential (1997) starring Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito directed by Curtis Hanson Movie Review

L.A. Confidential (1997)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Kim Basinger in L.A. Confidential (1997)

On the Hush-Hush

I really dislike the term film-noir or shall I say the frequent misuse of it and it is variations such as neo-noir because it has got to the point that a movie only needs to have a hack style narration to be given the name something-noir. That brings me to "L.A. Confidential" which I have heard called film-noir, neo-noir and post-noir which sounds awfully confusing to the general film fan. Maybe "L.A. Confidential" does technically fall into some sort of the noir categories but the simplest thing to say is that here we have a crime story set in the 1950s with director Curtis Hanson employing and updating various noir conventions but also introducing some non noir elements to craft a stylish and well paced crime thriller.

Whilst the advertising people try to attract people to move to L.A. with lies about how nice it is the truth is that the Criminal Organizations have it in their grip and also the L.A. Police Force. Young and enthusiastic cop Ed Exley (Guy Pearce - The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) believes in the law and doing things by the book whilst trying to advance his career. Bud White (Russell Crowe - Virtuosity) will break the rules to bring justice especially to those who hurt women whilst Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey - A Time to Kill) of narcotics is the cop to the stars especially as he also helps with advisory work on cop shows. But they all find themselves in a tangled web of lies when a former cop is found murdered.

Russell Crowe in L.A. Confidential (1997)

The first thing to grab you about "L.A. Confidential" is the look and Hanson and his team have done a nice job of recreating the 50s look, both the sunlit side of L.A. and then the more grimy criminal underground world. That style certainly grabs you when we first meet Kim Basinger as Lynn Bracken, bright red lips, blonde hair and the hood obscuring part of her face, enticing is not the word for it. And that is the thing about the movie, it comes across as sexy in look yet it's certainly not the most erotic movie you will ever see.

Then we come to the story and to be honest in some hands "L.A. Confidential" would end up long winded because we have minor storylines leading into slightly bigger ones till we get to the big storyline which draws on all those little ones. To explain well there is a scene where a fight breaks out between the police and some Mexicans in the police station, it is a scene which is built to as we hear that the cops were after some men who beat up a couple of policemen. The guys who are beaten up and the Mexicans are not important but the outcome of it is and that is how the movie plays out because we will have a series of scenes which build to something which turns out to be unimportant other than it advances a character. What this means is that by the end we have a different storyline to the one the movie started with but it makes it an entertaining journey.

Now I have already mentioned Kim Basinger who plays Vernoica Lake look-alike Lynn Bracken but Basinger is but one of quite a few exceptional performances given us very different characters. It is that variety which makes the casting of Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe and Kevin Spacey perfect as they give us young an enthusiastic, tough and violent and then celebrity schmoozer. Throw into that mix Danny DeVito who is not only well cast as hack reporter Sid Hudgens for "Hush Hush" magazine but delivers some darkly amusing narration.

The most important thing with "L.A. Confidential" is that for all the style, characters and story elements Curtis Hanson constantly has his mind on one thing and that is entertaining the audience. It means that whilst we have elements of noir the movie is never just about them and whilst we have Russell Crowe playing a violent cop it is never just about how violent he will get it is about all these things working together. And the outcome of this is a movie which whilst over 2 hours jaunts along at an ideal pace so that it never feels drawn out or dull.

What this all boils down to is that call "L.A. Confidential" what you like because I will just call it entertaining. It is a movie where all the parts come together perfectly to deliver a stylish, entertaining story with great performances and a movie which once watched you would be happy to watch again.