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L.A. Confidential
USA 1997
Directed by Curtis Hanson
Running time 148 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars


Based on a James Ellroy novel and adapted by Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland, L.A. Confidential is very much in the tradition of Chinatown. It’s not in the same league as Polanski’s 1974 classic but it has much the same elements: the period Los Angeles setting,  dead bodies, sex,  drugs, crooked cops and corruption in high places with oil rigs pumping in the background

It's 1953 and L.A. is a hotbed of organized crime. When mob boss Mickey Cohen gets sent up for tax evasion a turf war begins. Against this background we are introduced to three cops: Bud White (Russell Crowe) an old school hard-nosed precinct cop; Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) a “celebrity cop” and technical advisor to the hit TV series, “Badge Of Honor”; and Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), an ambitious academy-trained idealist. In the aftermath of a killing spree at a cheap diner, the paths of the three men cross as gradually they come to realize the bed of vipers that the L.A. police department has become.

Although the plot tends to get rather schematic in the latter stages, for the most part it is a tight combination of a fast-moving noir-flavoured script, excellent performances from the entire cast which also includes James Cromwell, Danny De Vito and Kim Basinger (whose career, somewhat oddly, largely tailed off after this film), and stylish production values.

For those so inclined, the film is particularly interesting in its perhaps unintentional depiction of the relationship between White and Exley as a burgeoning homo-erotic attraction based on father-issues, one that gradually becomes more insistent, climaxes in a shoot ‘em up gun battle and resolves in a very cheesy ending.

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