Eighty roles, 45 locations and two Ramsay Street runaways combine to make L.A. Confidential one classic movie. Having been ignored for a TV mini-series, Hanson’s epic period thriller is a riveting and unforgettable tale, perhaps one of the 1990s’ outstanding films.
Post-war Los Angeles is a sewer overflowing with ambition, corruption and turf war between lawmakers and lawbreakers. When two cops take a Christmas Eve beating, the squad go tit-for-tat with the suspects. Shocked by the scenes, officer Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) reports his colleagues, “Hollywood” Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) and Bud White (Russell Crowe), who are disciplined.
Exley is promoted by Captain Smith (James Cromwell), and put on the trail of those responsible for a cop-killing coffee shop carnage spree, Vincennes goes after a gang of lookalike hookers (led by a Veronica Lake double, Kim Basinger), while career jawbreaker White takes on organised crime. Slowly, the men realise there is a link between all their cases and are brought together to discover that betrayal and death are not far behind unless they bury their differences and act as a team.
Preserving Ellroy’s machine gun dialogue and bloody canvas, Hanson and co-writer Helgeland distil a 500-page novel into a screenplay of rare intensity (lines like “You get the girl, I get the coroner” are typical). This in turn raised the bar for all concerned. Spacey was given two words of advice for his glorious role (“Dean Martin”) and Danny DeVito’s sleaze magnet journalist is a joy. But watching Bud White evolve from thug to patsy to hero is L.A Confidential’s pivotal genius, and Crowe’s rise to glory was now unstoppable.
USA / 1997
Writers: Brian Helgeland, Curtis Hanson based on the novel by James Ellroy / Director: Curtis Hanson
Cast: Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, James Cromwell, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, David Strathairn