Have you ever had a euphoric feeling after watching a film? A film that makes you smile from ear and ear and the idea of sitting back down on the couch or chair to experience it all again is just so tempting?
For myself, L.A. Confidential is that kind of a movie. With a great cast, a near perfect script and solid direction from Curtis Hanson, L.A. Confidential is not only a great thriller, but also a wonderful character study. Based on the novel of the same name that was published in 1990 and was written by James Ellroy, L.A. Confidential tells the intersecting stories of three LAPD officers who are brought together after a massacre at a coffee shop with one of the victims being a former LAPD officer. They become embroiled in an investigation that ranges from prostitution, corruption and murder in The City of Angels. The trio of officers that become involved each have their own story and we are introduced to a variety of colorful characters, memorable moments and that gorgeous look of the 1950s Los Angeles.
While I don’t want to talk much about the plot because it is something for you to experience and enjoy, I will say that L.A. Confidential is a film-noir in the perfect sense but is so much more. Most detective-based films usually involve the police following clues and trying to apprehend the killer. L.A. Confidential tells a story that is quite complicated at the start but as the film unfolds is like an onion being peeled; layers are stripped away slowly revealing the core of the story. It also makes each character in the film identifiable as we are given their story. Who they are, what they do, and why they are important to pay close attention to.
I’m a big fan of time-period films. The idea of going back to a certain time in history to tell a story and the attention to detail to make everything right is something that I love to get immersed in. Plus, I have to give a lot of credit to the screenplay that was written by Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland. The script gives us these fascinating stories of some interesting characters and while everything is happening, it is a wonder how it will all end. It keeps you guessing and that is very good storytelling. When I’m on the edge of my seat wanting to know what happens next, I’m quite excited.
The stellar cast includes Kevin Spacey (Se7en), Kim Basinger (The Getaway), James Cromwell (Eraser), Danny DeVito (The Rainmaker), David Strathairn (Mother’s Night), Ron Rifkin (Wolf) and Simon Baker (TV’s The Mentalist) in his screen debut! The film also brought two Australian natives into a Big Hollywood feature — Russell Crowe (Gladiator) and Guy Pearce (Memento). The film was a success in the Box Office and was highly praised by film critics with most of them naming L.A. Confidential ‘One of the Best Films of the Year’. It garnered nine Academy Award nominations including Best Picture but only walked away with two, Best Supporting Actress for Basinger and Best Adapted Screenplay. James Cameron’s Titanic took home the remainder of the nominations that year and then some.
One thing that I love most about L.A. Confidential is that there isn’t a barrage of violence. This film has way more on its mind than car chases, bloody shootouts and so forth. The film never drags as we are lead from one scene to the next while keeping our interest. I sort of felt like a detective while watching the film because I’m wondering what is happening just as the characters themselves are, too. There are multiple stories in this film that are so well handled that cutting them out would do the film an injustice.
Danny DeVito is very interesting as this weasel who writes for Hush-Hush, which is based on the real-life scandal magazine Confidential. Kevin Spacey is a detective who is so self-important with his image that James Ellroy was quoted in describing his character as “Some of the best self-loathing I’ve ever seen on-screen.” Russell Crowe plays a badass cop who isn’t afraid to take necessary force against a suspect to get what he wants. Interestingly, Russell Crowe was unsure if he was right for the part playing a tough guy. Basinger shines in her role as a woman who thinks she’s doing something right when that is far from the truth, a role she turned down three times even though Curtis Hanson wanted her from the beginning. Guy Pearce is phenomenal in his performance as someone who just wants to do the right thing. The cast in this film couldn’t have been better picked.
I love a good mystery, and L.A. Confidential is a damn good one, but the film focuses on the characters as well, which is something that makes the experience even more memorable. This movie later brought back some fond memories of L.A. Noire when it was released in 2011. In 2015 L.A. Confidential was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry as being, “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” It was also included on the “1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die” by Steven Schneider.
I saw L.A. Confidential for the first-time last year and I immediately fell in love with it. Mysteries/thrillers are my favorite genre of films. They have a way of grabbing onto you and not letting go as we journey into the lives of the characters that we meet and sometimes we don’t forget the moments that we experience. L.A. Confidential is one of my favorite thrillers in years and in my opinion, is one of the Best Films of the 1990s. The film had its 20th Anniversary on September 19th of this year and had a DVD Anniversary released in stores.
As the tagline says: It’s a crime saga that will shock you. It’s a mystery that will keep you guessing. It’s a thriller that will keep you riveted.
It couldn’t have been said any better.