L.A. Confidential

L.A. Confidential Noir in color? Yes, it's a return to that good old time we've been missing so much (even if we didn't know it) since the days when Mildred Pierce was cool and fierce and fooled us all. (It is Lana Turner?) It's the 50's in L.A., that town where you can't tell the winners from the losers, and this time it's Kim Basinger as a Veronica Lake clone who keeps the boys sizzling along a tumble of twists and turns without giving them much chance to cool their heels. She's got it all to give and she gives it all too well. Corruption, intrigue, betrayal, and passion; what d'ya expect when you're two feet away from Hollywood's door?

Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) is the kind of cop every good boy wanted to be like until he grew up. He's been around and he's seen it all, from sleazy tabloid journalists like Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito) to babes who don't know when to say no, like Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger). It's a low down, dirty world on the coast, but it's one you gotta' take as it comes, even if the earth begins to shake under your feet.

Jack's been moonlighting as a technical advisor for a TV soap and gotten to like the taste of the limelight himself. Of course, a cop with star allures needs all the publicity he can get so he starts to set up the patsies and do the vice busts on show-biz personalities, all in a sweet and lucrative arrangement with his new buddy Sid who turns up conveniently on location to slide in easy and take a couple of newsworthy shots of the hot- shots, naturally including Jack as the man of the hour. Yes, Jack seems to have cornered the market on shining blue. In fact, everyone on the fringe of the star-studded boulevard seems to showing a sparkling facade that cleverly covers damaged goods.

Jack gets involved with a murder investigation that takes him, as well as fellow detectives Exley and White, into the dangerous and enigmatic world behind the scenes. Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) is a new face on the force whose ambition will let nothing stand in the way of advancement and his fellow officers despise him for it. Bud White (Russell Crowe), on the other hand, is the kind of cop who won't think twice about shooting a criminal quicker than you can shake a revolver if there's the slightest chance the bad guy might get away with his dastardly deed. Bud winds up, this time around, in even more dangerous territory than he is normally used to. During the pending investigation, both of them start to fall for Lynn Bracken's special charms. She turns out to be a girl full of surprises.

Director Curtis Hanson says of the celebrated James Ellroy novel that served as a basis for the scenario, "To me, his is the quintessential voice of L.A.: knowing, tortured, twisted, optimistic, and funny." The film he's managed to make out of it includes all those qualities. Not an easy task, to say the least, when dealing with such an intricate piece of work and much of the resulting strength in the film is due to screenwriter Brian Helgeland's masterful adaptation (Happily brought to an interesting conclusion, considering that the same writer has previously given us both the boringly convoluted "Conspiracy Theory" as well as the boringly boring "The Postman".) Ellroy himself concedes that "The book is extraordinarily dense and complexly structured; the screenplay weaves together most of the plot elements with remarkable concision."

The script is superb; the direction is superb; Dante Spinotti's photography is superb; the cast is superb; Jeannine Oppewal's production design is superb; Ruth Myers' costume designs are superb; Peter Honess' editing is superb; in short, it's superb. Did I forget any superlatives?


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