In this movie, the L.A.P.D. is involved in both causing and correcting the cesspool that swirls around it.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

"L.A. Confidential" is a cop story so full of time and texture, so full of good acting and direction that its reach extends far beyond Los Angeles, 1954. It was there and then, after all, that the odious celebrity culture we know today first sprouted, sending out an invasive underground root system that erupted years later in the prominence of "People" magazine and the tabloids, and in a national hunger for scandal.

Los Angeles's special version had a strange interaction of the L.A.P.D., stars, and criminals that became a dark shadow on the postwar euphoria that gripped the area. Lana Turner was in bed with Johnny Stompanato; Robert Mitchum was in jail for drugs. Mickey Cohen, the mobster who ran the rackets, was finally jailed for income tax evasion, and the void he left was filled with contenders in the culture of celebrity crime.

In this movie, the L.A.P.D. is involved in both causing and correcting the cesspool that swirls around it. Captain Dudley Smith (James Cromwell, the Australian farmer in "Babe") is known for his pompous histrionics in defense of justice and his police department. Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), Bud White (Russell Crowe), and Edmund Exley (Guy Pearce), the new guy on the force, are the principals in this story of collusion and corruption.

Along with the honest cops, a lot of human wreckage is attracted to the police force. The uniform, a badge, a gun, and liquor can become license for their animal instincts to erupt unchecked. That predatory behavior is all right here in the Nite Owl Coffee Shop, a popular Hollywood diner that in a moment becomes a scene of carnage: the cashier dead beside the empty cash register, a pile of bloody bodies in the men's room. The roles of the cops and the cons unfold with blinding speed and disturbing force.

Add to this a group of hookers, surgically altered to look like movie stars, operating as a "gentlemen's club" that lures the elite of the L.A. rackets, society, and the cops. Then watch a tightly crafted plot that unfolds within the L.A.P.D. The cast is uniformly outstanding. For once, in a period piece, the actors get it right--no discordant notes or accents tell us that they never lived in the 50s. Given a good story and fine acting, texture puts this one over the top: fedoras, pageboys, undershirts, cars, songs, and a spiffy narration that brings great perspective to the era.

The sad relevance between then and now is that, back then, we still hoped our cops would be heroes. By now, we have read enough truth about planted evidence, beatings, and personal vengeance to put the police right up there with politicians on the national scale of distrust. This hugely stylish film explores the perverse betrayals that so often accompany the lust for money and power. Perhaps the only surprise lies in learning that this familiar corruption was equally pervasive in America's postwar age of innocence.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 497
Studio : Warner Bros.
Rating : R
Running Time: 2h17m

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