LA Confidential

LA Confidential is a 1997 crime film directed and witten by Curtis Hanson and was co-written by Brian Helgeland. Based on the book of the same name by James Ellroy, it has become one of the most beloved and critically acclaimed films of modern cinema, winning two Oscars at the 1998 Academy Awards.


Taking place in 1950's Hollywood, the set-up finds a group of three cops trying to solve a mass murder that gives way to a larger conspiracy. That's the condensed version of a complex plot.

While the story gets rolling once we're in the main mystery it takes awhile to get off the ground. There's a lot of time dedicated to character set-up, probably more than necessary. It definitely requires at least a second viewing because of a few scenes that are necessary build-up, but originally come off as filler.

The mystery is just ok, mostly because it's difficult to follow and the payoff isn't that strong. Even though the who done it is a good twist you can see it coming in literally the scene it happens. The stakes aren't that high or personal for any of the characters meaning that there was no reason I should've been invested.

The characters are just kind of ok as well. There's nothing wrong with them; they all have unique backstories and personal motivations, but there's not much to them other than that. You've got the bad boy, the fresh Boy Scout and the sleaze who panders to the media. The only times they're interesting is when they're bouncing off one another, which makes it disappointing that all three are never in a room at the same time.

The screenplay, once again, is adequate. This was actually the aspect I was most looking forward to. I was hoping for a lot of hard-boiled dialogue, cool narration and awesome one liners. Instead, I got a lot of expositional dialogue, really awkward character backstory delivery and not a single line I can actually remember. It was disappointing to say the least.


The costume and set design are perfect recreations of 1950's California: the women wear classy dresses, the men wear clean tuxedoes, the cars are time appropriate and the houses look very suburban paradise. Even though everything is perfectly decade accurate I was once again very disappointed. This is a noir film, yet it has no distinct style of identity to separate it from any other detective movie. No bright colors, no neon, no over the top costume design.

The same could be said of the lighting. I expected it to be filled with saturated yellows and reds. however, it's a lot of clean, white lighting. It's not badly lit and it is shaded to be tone appropriate. When it's romantic there's dim lighting, when it's intense it's darkened and so forth, but it's nothing special.

The sound editing, once again, is fine. There aren't any sounds that jump out at you or quieting of background noise, but you can hear everything fine and the actors are never drowned out by any other diegetic sound.

The music is barely worth talking about, as none of it is memorable or even noticeable.

The acting is good, except for Russel Crowe who I've never been a fan of. That's a shame because his character is by far the most interesting. If they had gotten somebody else to play him, maybe we could've gotten something memorable. Other than that, though, the acting is serviceable.

Summary: This movie is the textbook definition of ok. Nothing about it sticks out, the mystery is passable and what should've been a fun premise is taken way too seriously. If you see it maybe you'll like it like everybody else, but for my money it's like finding a plain field where you were told a gorgeous mountain was: there's nothing bad about it, but it's still a letdown in the end.



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