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IN SHORT: The best of the year (so far).
A crime-drama, LA Confidential is adapted from the novel by James Ellroy. As always, Cranky makes no comparison with the source material -- but it must've been a hell of a book 'cuz it's a hell of a film.
From the title sequence on down, in which the film's backstory of crime and corruption and sex and other salacious doings in 1950s Los Angeles is laid out in the style of the tabloid press of the day. Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito) tells us this info as he writes it for his rag Hush-Hush. The three cops whose stories will come crashing together are intro'd and we are on our way.
LA Confidential works on almost every level imaginable -- the script gives nothing away in advance; the performances are all top notch; the production values are spectacular. The film looks and "feels" like what you might imagine 1950s LA to be. [Heck, we all know Hollywood has an infatuation with its' self of that era, from everything like filmic masterpieces like Chinatown to bombs like last year's Mulholland Falls.]
LA Confidential is a tale of cops more crooked than the mugs they bust; of Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), the one cop who's a spit-into-the-wind straight shooter. (That's been done before. The twist here is that we get to watch as the limelight twists straight arrow into something else.) Another cop in the story, Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) is in cahoots with a tabloid rag busting minor celebs and tripping the light fantastic as advisor to a hit television show modeled on Dragnet. The third cop in our triangle, Bud White (Russell Crowe), is the kind that flourished before Miranda rights -- beating confessions out of suspects. This cop is beginning to have second thoughts.
Care to talk about depth of story? The frame is the tax bust of mobster Mickey Cohen, which left LA wide open to organized crime. A mass murder in an all night diner leads to an intricately layered tale of missing heroin and high class pimps; city politics and corrupt cops; straight and gay sex and blackmail and tabloid manipulation of news events, LA Confidential fairly reeks of story. It doesn't let up for a blissful second and, just when you think it can't get any better, it pulls the rug out from under you and does.
Can't wrap this without the mention of a fab supporting cast, including DeVito; Kim Basinger as a Veronica Lake lookalike high class hooker; David Straithairn as her politically connected pimp; James Crowell as the paternal but hard-assed Chief of Police.
Sheer bloody heaven.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for LA Confidential he would have paid . . .
Best of the year, so far.
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