Russell Crowe (second from left) and Guy Pearce come up against L.A. corruption.
L.A. Confidential (WB, 1997) D: Curtis Hanson, w/ Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey. Rating: NNNNN; DVD package: NNNNN.
This belongs with Goodfellas and The Maltese Falcon on the short list of great crime films, movies you can savour long after you've got the plot down cold.
In 1953, three L.A. cops get involved with a multiple killing that brings them up against the worst in themselves and lays bare a web of corruption. Bud White (Russell Crowe) runs on violent rage, Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) is consumed with ambition and Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) is on the take, sucking up to movie-biz big shots. White and Exley both have the hots for the same hooker (Kim Basinger). All this drives a complex drama and solid thematic exploration of social masks and the loss of self.
Curtis Hanson's excellent period recreation takes a back seat to the flawless performances. Dante Spinotti's cinematography catches film noir's claustrophobia and doom without imitating the 40s style.
The question of whether L.A. Confidential is film noir is addressed in an excellent commentary cut together from comments by Hanson, scriptwriter Brian Helgeland, Spinotti, all key cast members, the production designer and costumer, and critic Andrew Sarris. Everyone offers their best insights here and on the detailed making-of docs on disc two.
Don't miss the series pilot starring Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Vincennes, a stunning and bizarre example of how to do it wrong.
EXTRAS Disc one: commentary, music-only track. Widescreen. English, French subtitles. Disc two: seven making-of docs, series pilot. Disc three: soundtrack songs sampler.