"A hyper-charged entry into the canon of great noir thrillers."
It pains me to resort to cliche, but a star is born. Guy Pearce successfully reinvents the Great American Hero in his own image, stealing the show from not only a crack cast but the film itself.No mean feat considering this faithful adaptation of James Ellroy's hard-boiled potboiler is a dazzling, bleak and hyper-charged entry into the canon of great film noir thrillers. L.A in the early fifties never looked so seductively lurid.
Ellroy's novels read like screenplays, they spring deep from the well of Hollywood cinema and are written self-consciously to be brought to the screen. The imagery, the dialogue, the tone and the great sweep of ideas are already there on the page. Director Hanson (The River Wild, Bad Influence) successfully mimics Ellroy's conflation of pulp fiction and high literature in bringing this corrupt world to the screen.
In terms of film style, cinematography, art direction and production design L.A. Confidential exceeds all its predecessors, Polanski's Chinatown included. In terms of values, the film depicts an amoral world in absolute terms. "Everything is suspect, everything is for sale, and nothing is what it seems", says the poster but at least this is a world where you know where you stand. The first rule is break all the rules - and ironically this becomes perhaps the film's only drawback - in a world where nothing is as it seems we find it impossible to take any simple fact at face value. Pearce and Crowe play two very different L.A cops, Ed Exley and Bud White who start out enemies and end up allies. But both are 'good men' forced to perform bad, bad deeds in the service of the elusive notion of justice.
It's pointless to recount the convoluted plot but central to proceedings is a high class prostitution racket where hookers have been 'cut' by the plastic surgeon to look like movie stars. A crucial moment comes when Crowe starts busting a bar room floozy, and it turns out to be "the real" Lana Turner.
L.A Confidential is the New Hollywood spilling the beans on the sham fantasy of Hollywood 'golden age'. And it does so with malevolent glee. What fantastic performances, from Spacey's sharp show pony celebrity cop, to Basinger's whore with a heart of gold, to DeVito's wonderfully sleazy pedlar of gutter journalism.Yet it's Crowe and especially Pearce who truly perform the tours de force. We in Australia always knew they were good and what a tragedy that this country can't produce enough films to keep them. ---Erin Free