In a time when it seems that every other movie makes some claim to being a film noir
, L.A. Confidential
is the real thing: a gritty, sordid tale of sex, scandal, betrayal and corruption of all sorts in 1940s Hollywood. The Oscar-winning screenplay is actually based on several titles in James Ellroy's series of chronological thriller novels (including the title volume, The Big Nowhere
, and White Jazz
)--a compelling blend of LA history and pulp fiction that has earned it comparisons to the greatest of all Technicolor noir
. Kim Basinger richly deserved her Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal of a conflicted femme fatale; unfortunately, her male co-stars are so uniformly fine that they may have cancelled each other out with the Academy voters: Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey and James Cromwell play LAPD officers of varying stripes. Pearce's character is a particularly intriguing study in Hollywood amorality and ambition, a strait-laced "hero"; (and son of a departmental legend) whose career goals outweigh all other moral, ethical, and legal considerations. If he's a good guy, it's only because he sees it as the quickest route to a promotion. --Jim Emerson
In Fifties Los Angeles, Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), Bud White (Russell Crowe) and Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) are three very different cops. Ed is ambitious and incorruptible, Bud takes pleasure in beating up wrong-doers, and Jack works as technical advisor to the television show 'Badge of Honour'. Ed earns the enmity of Bud and Jack when he testifies that they were involved in the beating of a group of Mexicans in police custody, but all three men become involved after a mass-murder takes place at the Nite Owl cafe. Initially, it seems that a group of black junkies are responsible, but further investigation leads to evidence of blackmail, prostitution and a police cover-up in high places. Kim Basinger won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.