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LA Confidential (1997)
Directed by: Curtis Hanson
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pierce, Kim Basinger, James Cromwell, Danny DeVito
Running Time: 2h 18m
TMM Score: 5 stars out of 5
STRENGTHS: Cinematography, Acting, Story
In 1950s Hollywood, the Glitz and Glam draws all like a moth to a flame and 3 cops; a boyscout, a bruiser, and a schmoozer, are out to find out who murdered everyone in a coffee shop late one night.
Why Don't I watch the Movies on my Movie List?
Yet another in the long line of movies I have been meaning to see but putting off for some reason, "LA Confidential" might have captured my top Noir slot. Maybe it was just my laziness and lack of investigating that made me think it was going to be some boring, people talking movie but I couldn't have been more wrong.
Sure it has its talky scenes but these are punctuated throughout by grisly murders, seductions, police raids, and shoot outs, and yet, it doesn't skimp on story, character, cinematography, or humor.
No Space to Say It All
I would love to go on and on relating all of the things in this movie that I simply love but if I did, no one would read this review. There is no aspect of this film that isn't well done but I'm going to focus on the characters.
What is great about the characters in "LA Confidential" is that none of them are cardboard cutouts or stereotypes. Just looking at the main three characters will demonstrate that. There are three police officers who are our protagonists.
A Tale of Three Cops
The first is played by Kevin Spacey. He's a detective who works on the vice squad and also is a consultant on a cop show on TV. In between hobnobbing sessions with the stars of the show, he grifts a little on the side by coordinating his busts with the tabloids and making sure they are there to catch up and coming film stars in salacious activities. He's a pretty cynical character until he gets convinced to investigate some murders for the chance to be a 'real cop' again.
The next cop is played by Russell Crowe. He's a walking pile of muscle that busts heads for the Captain when a little extra 'persuasion' is needed. He's no dirty cop though, just a hot head with a white knight complex that can't resist the chance to try and save a damsel in distress. He investigates the murders in order to get justice for his ex-partner who was killed in the coffee house shootout.
Finally we have Guy Pierce a a straight laced, shine your buttons, son of a hero police officer out to make his own name. He's willing to go toe to toe with the other cops when they are sweeping dirt under the rug, which sets him on a collision course with our other two cops as he investigates the murders as the responding officer.
Each of these characters, though performing the same job, have distinct motivations, strengths and weaknesses that will come into play. They may end up investigating the same crime and even being willing to sacrifice their lives to take down the same bad guy, but they all arrive there from very different places.
It would have been so easy to make all of their characters into one cop character, cut the runtime of the film, cut out some of those talky scenes and end up with a 90-120 minute action film, but this movie cares about the perspectives of multiple characters than it does about a quick run time or the number of pages between action beats.
Those sorts of characters are pretty commonplace in a noir film. That's part of what makes it a Noir. What makes this film unique is that it still feels like a modern movie. Compared to a film like "Chinatown," which is also wonderful but feels more like a classic noir in the vein of "The Maltese Falcon" or "The Big Sleep," "LA Confidential" really moves and could have been shot 5 years ago for all I would know.
That's what truly stands out about it. I might be tempted to think again if I was considering recommending one of those films to a coworker but with LA Confidential, I could recommend it to any of my friends without a second thought.
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