Friday, June 13, 2008

L.A. Confidential

by Pa Rock
Movie Reviewer

Although I finally saw the movie, L.A. Confidential, in its entirety for the first time this week, the fact that it is an exceptional film came as no surprise. First of all, I had seen enough bits and segments while channel surfing over the past few years to already be predisposed to unflinching enjoyment. Also, any film that boasts talent like Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, Kim Bassinger, and Danny DeVito (and eighty-four lesser knowns!) is unlikely to be some slapdash of cinematic tedium. So when I finally was able to catch the movie at the beginning and plant myself down for a two-hour sit, I knew that I would be well entertained. What I was not prepared for, however, was just how really fine this movie is – in every sense of the word.

A movie can hit the mark of greatness without megastars and huge budgets, but a movie that is poorly written will never have a lasting impact on society, no matter how much money is lavished on its creation and promotion. Films that hold up over time are the products of great scripts, the issue of writers who know how to create images with words that compel people to willingly and eagerly suspend belief and enter an alternate realm. James Ellroy, the author of the novel, is a master of the noir genre, and the scriptwriters, Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson, were able to bring Ellroy’s Los Angeles and its hard-boiled residents to life in flawless fashion. The writing on this project is superb.

Good writing alone cannot guarantee success. The actors, those daring souls who bring the words to life, are also integral to a film’s success. Danny DeVito, the tabloid journalist who also serves as the movie’s narrator, masterfully reflects the sleazy underbelly of the celebrity and criminality of Hollywood in the 1950s. Kevin Spacey bridges the gap between the police and show business as a cop who serves as a consultant to a television police drama, and is at-the-ready to assist DeVito in pre-arranged celebrity take-downs. Kim Bassinger bridges both worlds, crime and celebrity, in a gripping portrayal of a prostitute who has been groomed to present to her clients as actress Veronica Lake. She becomes pivotal to the story when she is used as a pawn to inflame tensions between two policemen played by Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce.

It is Aussie actors Crowe and Pearce who supply the friction that moves this film. Crowe, as Officer Bud White, is the epitome of expedience. He does what it takes to catch a crook or coerce information - such as hanging the district attorney out of the window of his skyscraper office by his feet. Crow’s cop is your bud, and he is white – and he is very representative of things that need to change in the Los Angeles Police Department. Pearce, as Detective Lieutenant Ed Exley, represents where the police department is headed. He is a bespectacled, college educated, goodie-goodie who promotes ethical conduct and proper behavior by public servants, but he can be conveniently opportunistic in building his own career. Together they do a dance of ‘good cop-bad cop’ throughout the movie, alternating from one extreme to the other with disturbing ease. Eventually their symbiotic relationship becomes so clear that even they are forced to recognize it and work in tandem to clean up Los Angeles and its police department.

L.A. Confidential whispers in your ear as it slams you in the gut. It’s a powerful film that is destined to stand the test of time - it's that good!

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