Genre: noir thriller.
Stars: Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito, James Cromwell, David Strathairn, Kim Basinger, Ron Rifkin.
Plot: three Mexican kids are arrested for a coffeeshop massacre, but neither the straight-arrow arresting officer nor the violent colleague he hates so much think the case has been solved. Meanwhile, a reknown but low-ranking cop with ties to a popular TV show investigates a smut lead he can’t work out, but which he’s starting to think is connected.
Why It’s Great:
- Not only is it based on a James Ellroy book, it’s a superb, Ellroy-esque version of it – despite not being written by James Ellroy. Ellroy himself commented, in very much his own words, “I can’t fucking believe it.”
- Ellroy-esque means mind-bogglingly complicated, subtle and dark. Typically for him, LA Confidential hinges on human weakness and corruption, scandal, drugs, ambition, revenge, hollowness, regret, and anger.
- The three leads and James Cromwell are incredible – the best performances I’ve ever seen from him or Spacey, both brilliant at their worst. The idea of different personality types coming together in the face of a greater evil is hardly novel, but their personalities are so profoundly convincing that it still feels like a revelation. It also helps that the moment Crowe and Pearce realise they’re on the same side, Crowe is in the middle of beating Pearce’s head against the corner of a filing cabinet. In the end, it’s a friendship that arises when it becomes clear they don’t have time to hit each other anymore. And it only becomes jovial when they’re both convinced they’re going to die.
- In fact Cromwell is probably the star of the film, as the brilliantly conceived Captain Dudley Smith, the only common thread in the three books and perhaps Ellroy’s biggest character. His key moment in the film – you know it if you’ve seen it – is extraordinary cinema.
The 40’s LA atmosphere is impeccable, and the whole thing has an amazingly sylish elegance.
- The action is so expertly directed, so immediately gripping and volatile, that a simple hotel shoot-out makes The Matrix’s lobby scene look pathetic. These are gunfights that respect the fact that line-of-sight means death for one or the other party within a second. Death is vicious and sudden. Every shot has a serious, brutal consequence.
Scandal-Rag Journalist: Patchett's what I call 'twilight': he ain't queer and he ain't red. He can't help me in my quest for prime sinuendo.
Coroner: Stomach of the week from a motel homicide: the unemployed actor had frankfurter, french fries, alcohol and sperm.