Classics Revisited – L.A. Confidential

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Based on a 1990 James Ellroy novel of the same name, and directed by Curtis Hanson, is the 1997 crime drama L.A Confidential. It quickly went on to commercial success and critical acclaim and, with a fresh Rotten Tomatoes rating of 99% and a must see Metacritic score of 90%, is the latest classic I’m revisiting. 

Set in the early 1950s, we follow the L.A.P.D. as a complex web of crime, corruption and deceit slowly unravels itself. With duplicitous behaviour, celebrity scandals, backstabbing and criminal connections rife three cops, not squeaky clean themselves, are at the centre of exposing it all. The cops in question are Wendell ‘Bud’ White (Russell Crowe), Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) and Edmund Exley (Guy Pearce) and their way toward justice is not an easy one 

The film has aged well, this trailer hasn’t.

This noir crime drama looks slick, is cleverly written and superbly acted – keeping you engaged and guessing to the end. The pacing is just right, it slowly lures you in before upping the ante over the course of 2 hours and 18 minutes – with rough justice, interrogations, fist fights and shootouts adding plenty of spectacle. It is a bit convoluted at times, with the amount of threads and players involved hard to keep track of. This film pulls off its intricate plot well though, even if it takes a fair bit of concentration at times.

It is also understandable with the amount of characters involved. James Cromwell as the wisecracking Irish captain Dudley, Danny DeVito the sleazy gossip mag writer Sid and Kim Basinger as the femme fatale prostitute Lynn are just some highlights of a great cast. The main three draw you in, and work well together because of their chalk and cheese differences. Crowe’s rough and ready White, Pearce’s savvy and virtuous Exley and Spacey’s charming slimeball Vincennes (it does feel uncomfortable praising him given recent revelations).

L.A Confidential is a corker of a film, a beautiful and intelligent crime drama with a super cast, an intricate plot and lots of visceral action. It’s currently streaming on Netflix, so get on it. Fun fact, despite its near universal praise, Titanic still beat it to the best picture Oscar that year.


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