Customer Review

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark Noir in Bright Daylight, 11 Jan 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: L.A. Confidential [1997] [DVD] (DVD)
This was the best film made in '97 but like Polanski's "Chinatown" it is destined to become one of the finest movies NOT to take the Oscar home. Curtis Hanson took James Ellroy's novel, a book many doubted could be translated to the film medium, and co-wrote one of the finest adapted screenplays ever done. He then brought on board a couple of Aussie unknowns, a gorgeous star who had never lived up to her potential, maybe the finest actor working today, and began filming one of the darkest noir films of all time, in sun drenched daylight!
The end result is a dark and twisted tale of personal redemption told against the backdrop of the bright lights and sunshine of Hollywood in the early '50's. Hanson contrasts the brightly lit exteriors with the dark storyline of police corruption and Hollywood decadence. This is a movie about facade, not just Hollywood's but our own personal facade as well.
Russell Crowe became a star as LA Detective Bud White, a tough cop willing to do whatever is necessary, something the political up and comer Guy Pearce finds archaic about the force and wants to change. What may stop him from doing so is his investigation of the murder of several people at "The Night Owl" cafe, one of which is Crowe's partner, recently "retired" after a well publicized jail brawl christened "Bloody Christmas" by the papers.
Crowe and Pearce come at this from different angles but the road for both leads right to beautiful Kim Basinger and a millionaire in the lush Hollywood hills played by David Strathairn. There is a reason Basinger looks a little like Veronica Lake the first time we see her in this film, she's suppose to. Hollywood legend has it that a string of expensive call girls were cut to look like stars during the forties and fifties and Hanson has made this darker side of Hollywood part of the story. Basinger is one of the lucky ones, close enough to the actual look of Veronica Lake not to have been cut on.
Crowe falls for the real girl inside Basinger, but in spite of her opulent lifestyle, her low self esteem comes to the forefront when she sleeps with Pearce in an attempt to "help" Crowe. We realize as she nearly destroys Crowe by doing so that she perceives herself as a whore on the inside, beneath the facade. Her logic is as twisted and tainted as the corruption Crowe and Pierce are about to uncover as they follow the trail linking Basinger's "boss" Strathairn to the Night Owl killings and the vice surrounding them on every side.
Basinger deserved the Oscar she garnered for this role and Crowe's performance as the tough cop with some soft spots after all is something you'll always remember. But the coolest job done here is by Kevin Spacey. Hanson told him before filming began to think Dean Martin and he'd have it down pat. Yes indeed! Spacey plays the ultra cool cop, the one in the tabloids for his Hollywood connections. He is a consultant on the TV show "Badge of Honor" (think Dragnet) and is hooked up with slimy but likeable Danny DeVito, a "writer" for a Hollywood tabloid. Spacey grabs the spotlight and DeVito gets the headlines as Spacy collars Hollywood stars in compromising situations, DeVito's camera flashing.
Spacey seemingly has it all, but like the rest of this film, it is just a facade. While sitting in a bar listening to Dean Martin in the background he looks up into the mirror behind the counter and doesn't like what he see's. He has all the tools to be a great cop but he knows he has sold his soul for the fifty in front of him. He becomes involved in the case because of a murder in a hotel room he feels responsible for that leads right back to the Night Owl, and hooks up with Pearce to redeem his soul. You will never forget the name "Rollo Tomasi" or what it means for Pearce, and ultimately Spacey in this film.
Adding to the atmosphere more than just a little is the score by Jerry Goldsmith, his finest work since "Chinatown" and just as haunting. It does more than help enhance the atmosphere, it IS the atmosphere of this one of a kind masterpiece. This film has the kind of ending dreams are made of and someone (I won't give it away) holding up their badge to the oncoming rush of cop cars in the Hollywood hills at night is a scene you'll never forget. There is not a bad performance in this film. It is complex and riveting. If you haven't seen this before, don't rent it, buy it. You'll watch it over and over. But don't tell anyone-this is Off the Record, On the QT, and Very Hush Hush.......!
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