L.A. Confidential (1997) – Review

4 Stars

L.A. Confidential is a companion piece to Chinatown in terms of tone, subject, and amoral characters. There are no likable characters in this story adapted from the sprawling novel by author James Ellroy. It contains stellar performances from its three lead characters and excellent back-up in a dozen supporting roles that fill out the buffet of cinematic richness onscreen.

Three detectives (Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce) operating on different levels of ambition for the corrupt and brutal L.A. police force of the 1950s use unconventional methods to uncover a conspiracy behind the shotgun slayings of the patrons at an all-night diner in this lush tribute to tough film noir crime films. James Ellroy’s dense, multi-layered story has been cleanly adapted by director Curtis Hanson and his co-writer Brian Helgeland. The outstanding technical aspects are forced into the background due to the fierce acting from the richly talented ensemble cast. Basinger won an Oscar for her portrayal of a high-priced call-girl and in truth all the headlines deserved nominations. If 1997 hadn’t seen the release of Titanic, it’s very possible that L.A. Confidential could have swept most of the major categories.

This is not only one of the best films of 1997 but one of the most gorgeous and most satisfying flicks of the entire decade. The serpentine screenplay juggles its complex storylines and ties them up in a spectacular manner. L.A. Confidential is considered a police-drama film noir but it could also be considered a tragedy. While none of the characters make it through the plot unscathed either physically or mentally the experience is most pleasing for adult audiences with patience for classic narrative studio filmmaking. Curtis Hansen’s assured direction of his screenplay mixed with career-defining performances from Crowe and Pearce make this a can’t miss masterpiece.

Director: Curtis Hanson
Stars: Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce

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