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Worth A Look: 13.02%
Average: 1.56%
Pretty Bad: 5.21%
Total Crap: 0%

11 reviews, 126 user ratings

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L.A. Confidential
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by Mrs. Norman Maine

"Best film of it's year (no matter what James Cameron may think...)"
5 stars

Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland teamed up as writer and director to make a modern classic from James Ellroy's sprawling novel of 1950s cops and robbers in Los Angeles. The film gave a big boost to the careers of Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce and nabbed Kim Basinger an Oscar.


Troma Studios has sent me the latest script revisions for Toxy Foxy , their big-budget musical sequel to The Little Foxes in which I would play Regina after her big move to Chicago. Here, she makes a new fortune in hazardous waste and teams up with something called the Toxic Avenger. I asked that they include a part for Norman before I could commit. They have complied, giving Norman a cameo appearance as Horace's ghost. The ghost appears on the battlements of the Chicago Water Tower and tells the Toxic Avenger of Regina's hand in his death. Now the Toxic Avenger is hell bent on revenge and his love for me is just part of his antic disposition. This plot development seems vaguely familiar so I'm not sure if it's really for me, especially as they seem to have cut two of Regina's big numbers to make room for it. I'll consult with Norman as soon as he wakes up from his daily coma.

Joseph, my manager, called this morning just after I finished looking at the new pages. I have a new booking for my Sink For Your Supper concert tour at the Grange hall in Wymore, Nebraska. It's a little unclear who the back-up orchestra is to be and there is much repair work to be done, following the fire in Salina. My motorized iceberg is half melted and the dry cleaners have not yet been able to get the scorch marks out of my Gaultier dress. I may have to reconceive the show around a different design concept. Poor Isaac Mizrahi seems to have fallen off the fashion radar these days so I have a call in to him to see if he might be available to design a new gown and backdrop. He should be hungry enough to do it for a reasonable price.

As I have been spending so much time these last few weeks at Chateau Maine, high in the Hollywood Hills, I thought a film looking at the glory days of the studio era was in order. Looking through the ‘To View’ pile, I found the DVD of L.A. Confidential and popped it into the home theater for a look. I had seen it when it first came out, Esther Williams, June Allyson, Jane Powell and I went off to a girls afternoon matinee; we enjoyed the nostalgia of Hollywood in the early 50s but Jane and June were a bit off-put by some of the violence. There had been little of that sort of thing on the back lot - unless you count the time L. B. Mayer and Dore Schary went at it in the commissary. Those girls are fun, but they’re a bit sheltered as they spent most of their time on soundstages while I was always eager to rough it on location. Esther, especially, can be a bit slow. She spent most of her time underwater so most things go over her head.

L.A. Confidential is a sprawling tale of cops and criminals in early 50s Los Angeles, based on the epic novel by James Ellroy. Ellroy's novel, greatly admired for its craft and compelling characters, was originally felt to be unadaptable to film as it was too big and too plot heavy. The novel was originally optioned for a TV mini-series but languished in development hell; eventually, it fell into the hands of director Curtis Hanson and his co-writer Brian Helgeland. Hanson and Helgeland nipped and tucked, cut characters and set pieces and streamlined the story down to two and a quarter hours and did a masterful job of creating a compelling world where fact and fiction blend in a convincing way. Their cuts occasionally lead to some plot elements not quite falling into place (Officer Exley doing something completely out of character with call-girl Lynn Bracken, the unresolved fate of twenty-five pounds of heroin, a somewhat tacked on 'happy' ending) but the good far outweighs the bad.

The plot, which is impossible to briefly summarize so I won't try, revolves around three LA Cops on the Hollywood beat. Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) is the glamour officer, high profile, and advisor to a hit TV show and on the take to the tabloids. Bud White (Russell Crowe) is a thug with a traumatic past and a deep inner sense of justice. Edmund Exley (Guy Pearce) is a calculating prig, trying to live up to his father’s legacy, determined to play by the rules, and with an enormous ambition. These three, with shifting alliances, team up to uncover a web of deceit underlying the burnished image of the LA Police force. Plot elements include the real (Mickey Cohen (who was Bugsy Siegel's lieutenant and took over his rackets on his death), Johnny Stomponato (whose sensational murder at the hands of actress Lana Turner and her daughter Cheryl is a story unto itself) and the 'Bloody Christmas' incident in which LA Cops viciously beat some Hispanic suspects), the lightly fictionalized (Badge of Honor = Dragnet, Brett Chase = Jack Webb, Hush-Hush Magazine = Hollywood Confidential Magazine) and the fictional (The Nite Owl Cafe murders, Fleur-de-Lys). All of these are woven together in a tangled, but tight, narrative, which shows just how good film craft, can be. The film won a well-deserved screenwriting Oscar for adapted screenplay.

The large cast is uniformly excellent and an Oscar went to Kim Basinger as a hooker with the heart of Veronica Lake. Basinger has always been at her best when she plays wounded flowers and she's great in her part, touchingly vulnerable. The casting of Crowe and Pearce (both Australian and relatively unknown in Hollywood at the time) was a stroke of genius. These characters are the two outsiders, not quite accepted in the police culture they inhabit. The use of relative unknowns, with somewhat different voices and body language, subtly reinforces the outsider stance and makes the film stronger. It doesn't hurt that the two are also terrific performers. David Straithairn, who has been providing valuable screen support for decades, is on hand as a seedy millionaire and Danny DeVito, doing his unctuous bit, is a tabloid gossip columnist with no scruples. James Cromwell, of the tall stooping frame and chiseled cheeks, is the police captain who tries to keep a tight rein on his stationhouse, despite the skullduggery going on behind the scenes.

Much of the film is actually about the ugly reality beneath the glossy images of the Hollywood dream factory. The LAPD tries to control its image with cop shows that make their boys in blue always heroic. When bad things happen, such as the 'Bloody Christmas' riot, we are privy to the backroom deal making which puts the proper spin on events for public consumption. This dichotomy between fantasy and reality is there for each of the characters and allows each, in turn, to make excuses for his or her behavior and morally opprobrious choices. Jack must choose between his glitzy Hollywood facade and being a real policeman. Bud must choose between his work behavior and his personal moral code. Ed must choose between his private ambitions and public perceptions. Lynn must choose between her fantasy surface and the reality of her emotional feelings.

Many of the best moments in the movie are commented on, in almost Brechtian style, by pop songs of the period. These act as a device to hold the film together and to allow a large amount of time and history to be covered in relatively brief montages. Hanson and Helgeland are to be commended for making these tricky moments work, both in terms of storytelling, but also in terms of character development. I've viewed the film several times now, but every time I go back, I pick up something new in terms of character or symbolism or texture.

The DVD is a good wide-screen transfer with excellent sound quality. There is a 'making of' featurette that's actually interesting as it talks about process, rather than being press junket puff pieces. There are various trailers, ads, descriptions of locations, and bios as well.

Tax evasion. Tag team shootings. Missing heroin. Gratuitous Christmas roof ornament destroying. White boudoir. Art moderne house. Hollywood Premiere Pot Bust. Urinating on floor. Big dead rat. Gratuitous councilman in underwear. Morgue tables. Dead hustler. DA dangling.

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originally posted: 01/05/03 15:58:08
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell compelling well acted film 4 stars
4/01/16 Aj wales Pearce better than crowe here. Great movie. 5 stars
5/22/15 David Hollingsworth Best film of 1997, better than Titanic 5 stars
5/17/14 Matthew Thompson What Danielsan said 5 stars
1/10/14 Danielsan One of the greatest movies ever made! 5 stars
7/07/13 Monday Morning Roo's review and 2-star rating shows that he (or she) is a fucking idiot. 5 stars
6/19/11 randy todger amazing film with incredible performances.miss stress go suck a cock stupid cow! 5 stars
1/31/11 brian Spellbinding. 5 stars
7/24/10 bagwell5 This movie, not " Titanic " , should have won Best Picture for 1997. 5 stars
4/02/09 Dane Youssef On par with "The Maltese Falcon, "Chinatown," "Murder, My Sweet" and "Double Indemity." 5 stars
3/11/09 brian Definitely better than Chinatown. 5 stars
1/15/09 FrankNFurter Violent, cynical, and spectacular neo-noir masterpiece.A must-see for all film buffs. 5 stars
11/28/08 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 5 stars
11/18/08 killer mindblowing cinema 5 stars
10/19/07 MP Bartley Glorious, glorious entertainment. Shoulda swept the Oscar board that year... 5 stars
5/06/07 R.W.Welch Overblown shootout takes the edge off an otherwise impressive effort. 4 stars
4/21/07 Chris Redmond The real stars were Crowe, Pearce and Cromwell, not Basinger. 5 stars
4/01/07 fools♫gold Thetypeofending KissKissBangBang madefunof, but the twist here is that it's the prfct one! 5 stars
1/18/07 Sepi53 great film noir movie 5 stars
6/05/06 Thomas BETTER THAN CHINATOWN 5 stars
2/14/06 ronald fascinating cinema.Come on Hanson and make more films like this 5 stars
2/11/06 Seanboy One of the best movies ever, Crowe, Spacey and Pearce should've been thanking the academy 5 stars
8/12/05 ES yes sir excellent crime drama, sweet twist 5 stars
5/08/05 Bluto Loved it, powerhouse ensemble cast 5 stars
2/28/05 Jeanne This film gets better each time I see it! 5 stars
1/10/05 keithers.. amazing film...Crowe is perfect in his role 5 stars
12/23/04 Vince Atmosphere reminded me of Chinatown... only this was better! 5 stars
9/26/04 Tor Honolulu Great but if there ever was it was a wasted Oscar, it was given to Kim for this 5 stars
7/16/04 eris One of my faves. 5 stars
4/30/04 Doan AWESOME MOVIE 5 stars
4/20/04 coreyhaim Uniformly excellent filmmaking. Crowe, Basinger and Spacey are brilliant. 5 stars
4/10/04 IP Freeley Michael Mungin was upset cause he didn't see Crowe's penis...this is a great movie shithead 5 stars
3/27/04 Gretchen good story, disappointing ending 4 stars
3/21/04 Peter A really good film with good twists and atmosphere 4 stars
3/18/04 kandy howman great movie 5 stars
3/17/04 Alfred Guy A gripping movie. Good characters AND gunplay! 5 stars
3/11/04 Charles Tatum A classic piece of film making...until the most disappointing ending in recent memory 4 stars
3/02/04 Michael Mungin Russell Crowe makes me snore. So does Kim Basinger. 3 stars
2/28/04 Despot This was a great adaption of Ellroy's work. This film has never recieved enough credit. 4 stars
2/25/04 susan lee I agree .. this movie was way better than titanic .. 5 stars
2/25/04 Jack Sommersby An instant classic that's (almost) as good as it gets. Top-notch work all around. 5 stars
2/24/04 y2mckay Fantastic movie - great perfs from Pearce, Spacey, and Crowe before they all sold out 5 stars
11/30/03 john best crime story with the worst unreal happy ending ever attached to a otherwise great film 4 stars
8/30/03 AD perfect 5 stars
5/18/03 George Jung This movie is a modern classic. Everything about this movie was perfect. 5 stars
3/20/03 GMan Mmm. Good. Russell Crowe before he become RUSSELL CROWE, HOLLYWOOD BADBOY SHIT ROCK SINGER. 5 stars
1/24/03 fjff A flawless film. A rarity in this day and age. Definitely worth the time and the money. 5 stars
1/23/03 Artist Freak Great ensemble cast , storyline, photography, details galore, loved it loved it loved it. 5 stars
1/06/03 Monster W. Kung IP Freely, go fuck your dog and blow your cat, you fucking idiot. 4 stars
12/17/02 IP Freely Roo, Forrest Gump called, he said he doesn't want his IQ back. This movie rocks! 5 stars
11/16/02 Catherine Doherty Top marks for evertyhing, except that it is marred by that improbable shootout at the end. 5 stars
8/16/02 Scott great, one of the best flicks ive seen in a long time 5 stars
7/23/02 erick tis a downright shame this lost to titanic... i mean for christs sake, titanic 5 stars
7/11/02 Emily Torrisi Terriffic! The best film in years. 5 stars
7/10/02 Mina Best in years: intro of Guy Pearce, details of the 40s great; loss of Oscar to Titanic!! 5 stars
6/24/02 Phil M. Aficionado Excellent but not truly great as the plot became far-fetched with over the top action. and 4 stars
6/06/02 I'm i (L) with a Jedi sweet! corrupt cops shit me up da wall!!! 5 stars
5/18/02 Kat Balue Basinger aside, superb acting, atmosphere, writing 5 stars
4/04/02 Edfink Lombardo Spacey, Pearce, and Crowe are excellent...Brilliantly conceived and brilliantly written 5 stars
3/16/02 Artist Freak The only worthy film noir movie since Chinatown. 5 stars
3/10/02 Rebecca thrilling, great period piece 5 stars
2/25/02 Butterbean This is where I fell in love with Russel Crowe. The entire cast and story is the best 5 stars
10/02/01 Phoenix I loved this movie. It's one of the best movies of the 90s. 5 stars
8/15/01 Henry Ginsberg Very commpeling,but a bit to improbable. 4 stars
8/09/01 E-Funk It is so seldom we have a chance to see a movie this good. Flawless. 5 stars
7/19/01 Reini Urban maßlos überschätzt 2 stars
6/16/01 Melissa in NYC Goes to show that Academy Award voters are hacks. This is hands-down the Best Film of '97. 5 stars
6/15/01 Bada Bing Crosby Basinger aside, this is a great movie 5 stars
5/05/01 fifu awsome plot twist one of crowes best 5 stars
4/16/01 LiL Fantastic thriller who has you really clued in all way round 5 stars
4/02/01 Al amazing! 5 stars
3/28/01 Rampage it was fantastic!! 5 stars
3/17/01 Artist Freak Can't say enough good about it. Dense,smooth,brutal,intelligent. Epic noir detective movie. 5 stars
1/20/01 Ground Zero should have won a award for best movie, no thanks to that Titanic pissant 5 stars
12/22/00 stovall222 great plot, superb acting, Crowe intensly real. 5 stars
11/27/00 The Evil Penguin One of the best of Crime Drama. I wish Titanic never stole their OSCARS. 4 stars
10/18/00 Dan Explosive dialogue and dark characterisation - a masterpiece. 5 stars
9/10/00 perverted pixie A sharp, but slightly stiff flick. Pearce and Crow are magnetic performers. 4 stars
9/03/00 Ben How shit like Titanic and English Patient win Oscars & this gets hardly any is beyond me. 5 stars
8/23/00 cadroy gorgeous film-noir!check it out!!! 5 stars
7/18/00 Sissy DAAAAMMMNN that Russell Crowe is a fucking hottie! Awesome movie! 5 stars
7/10/00 Andrew J. Just watched it again today on DVD. Even better this time. 5 stars
7/06/00 Chris Drake Rare: the movie is better than the book--confusing so watch it at least twice 4 stars
6/24/00 Naushad Khanji Sketchy story.Lacks Rhythm.Often strays too far from main plot. 2 stars
5/02/00 lucas jackson a classic when it came out in the theatre 5 stars
4/26/00 verbalgirl This film was ROBBED at the Oscars. 5 stars
4/05/00 PJ Man oh Man This movie is the best Film Noir since Chinatown Brilliant, performances great. 5 stars
4/05/00 MissBeBop Brilliant 5 stars
3/13/00 Scary Joe damn fine stuff 5 stars
2/16/00 Neil Austin Nice to know Hollywood can do subtle 5 stars
1/29/00 Ami the Wonderbread Bought it on a whim in Michigan while at camp, loved every minute! 5 stars
11/06/99 Anthony Ellis The best film to come out of Hollywood in years. One of the best films of all-time. 5 stars
10/30/99 Bozo Male actors were amazing; Kim can't act (no wonder she won the Oscar) 4 stars
10/20/99 Lame-Oh A brilliant masterpiece, DeVito rocks! 5 stars
9/29/99 Glitter Berry Best Film of '97. Kim Basinger is awesome 5 stars
8/20/99 Japtalian And ya still don't believe O.J. could have been set up? 4 stars
8/02/99 Weird Andy This was the best big studio flick I had seen in many, moons. Read the book. Ellroy rules 5 stars
5/07/99 Lucas Jackson This was a fucking great mystery full of suspense and action,it was fucking outstanding 5 stars
4/15/99 Jon Jackson ...Wow... 5 stars
3/22/99 A. M. Good, but loaded with Hollywood formula thrash. Could have been better. 4 stars
3/14/99 Viral Messiah Totally awesome! Up yours, pussies! 5 stars
3/12/99 Ah Dooey Hehehe. Good cop, bad cop, what's the difference? 5 stars
2/19/99 Piz Basinger a bit overhyped but a great story with convincing actors 5 stars
2/02/99 Matthew Bartley Greatest Hollywood crime film ever? Damn right 5 stars
1/17/99 Dan Miller Kick ASS!! Fuck YA!!! 5 stars
1/11/99 I.P. Freeley Two words: goddam awesome! 5 stars
1/03/99 Dasha I would give it 6 stars if it was possible. Magnificent, just magnificent. 5 stars
1/03/99 val excellent!! unexpected plot twists-eureka! hollywood made a movie for intellegent viewers! 5 stars
11/27/98 Mr.Pink Everyone's faults in the careers of the cast and crew are forgiven..... 5 stars
11/23/98 Lord Of The Dunce A seriously well acted, seriously well directed noir thriller. Bassinger wasn't all that. 5 stars
11/13/98 Jules Movies suck so bad lately people actually thought this film was great... 3 stars
10/28/98 Silent Rob Modifications aside, this is one hell of a great adaptation of a great story! 5 stars
10/24/98 Timmy C Wow...a film that actually lived up to the novel. 5 stars
10/19/98 Kwyjibo Quite simply one of the better 1% of movies you'll see. 5 stars
10/13/98 joseph agree with goofball-spacey is always good--best supporting actress-NO 2 stars
9/24/98 Nate Dogg The movie kicked ass...Kim Basinger is a fuckin' hack though....she sucks dick (ask Prince) 4 stars
9/09/98 Miss Stress i'm sorry, it was so boring i feel asleep 2 stars
9/06/98 BBReBozo Incredible. Unfortunately we'll see copy-cats. 5 stars
9/05/98 Kid Pee-Pee The aussie actors kicked major ass, but I didn't think Spacey pulled it off. 4 stars
9/04/98 Badass I love this movie. One of the very best screenplays ever written. 5 stars
8/24/98 The Capital City Goofball I guess I was alone in thinking this was kind of trying too hard. Pearce was good. 3 stars
8/16/98 Johny With the Best of '97 5 stars
8/15/98 Pete I loved it. Well written, Crowe kicked a ton of bootay. 5 stars
8/14/98 {{{OZ}}} A fine piece of film noir. Sometimes stretched but all up a screamer. 5 stars
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  19-Sep-1997 (R)
  DVD: 07-Jun-2005


  30-Oct-1997 (M)

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