Culture Your Ass: “L.A. Confidential”

Written by Barfoot July 20, 2011

By Andrew Pel

I’m not here to bump gums or tighten the screws on your film selection, but I say you take a slant at an article of mine. Generally they’re on the square. Now, I’ll clam it with the jargon, which I’m lousy with, but pipe this while I’m stringing: L.A. Confidential is one of the finest crime dramas ever filmed. Capturing a dazzling mid-1950s Hollywood milieu, it positively resounds with the wails of nightclub sirens and hot lead, stalked by crooked cops, heeled crooks, and hard luck; a vibrant successor to the mean streets of Polanski’s opus, Chinatown. The suspense is breathtaking, the characters protean, and the action exhilarating. In short, to borrow a swell line from the great hardboiled novelist Raymond Chandler, L.A. Confidential is a film nor: a film noir to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window.

The narrative follows three LAPD officers: the pugilistic enforcer Bud Fox (Russell Crowe), charismatic playboy Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), and by-the-book politico Edmund Exley (Guy Pierce), puzzling out an indiscriminate slaughter in a late-night café. Hearts, bones, and rules are shattered as they approach a horrifying truth, their paths gradually intertwine, and they opt to join forces to deliver justice at any cost.

Kim Basinger is marvelous in her Oscar winning performance as femme fatale, David Strathairn delivers as her coolheaded procurer, and James Cromwell (the ultimate “that guy”) is downright sinister as the chief of police. Simply put, this cast is dynamite.

I’ll put the rhino where my trap is: L.A. Confidential is an unequivocal masterpiece of both narrative and aesthetic harmony and ensemble performances, a standard that has held true with each subsequent viewing. So give it the up and down, and you’ll be a wise head for it. Just call it a hunch.

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  1. Ok, I’m going to go see it right now.

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