LA Confidential (1997) Review

L.A. Confidential (1997) - IMDb

LA Confidential is a love letter to the pulp, cops and gangsters movies of the 1950s which had righteous cops, dirty cops, ominous villains and usually some far reaching conspiracy. Just like those movies, LA Confidential has the same, but rather than feel like a mocking parody, it delivers a great story which is packed with memorable characters that bring the world to life.

For a film all about how life is a “shade of grey,” there is a very black and white way the characters are portrayed here but rather than being a criticism, its one of the movie’s strengths. There is such a range of characters that you relish their interactions and how the events of the story will unfold with them involved. Its difficult to find a hero in this film but Russell Crowe’s Bud White would be the main contender. He’s a brute force cop who does things with his fists rather than thinking.

Noir Cut to Look of the Period, Not About the Period: The Sunny, Seedy  '50's Underbelly of Curtis Hanson's 'L.A. Confidential' • Cinephilia &  Beyond

On the opposing side of the character scale is Ed Exley, played by Guy Pearce, delivering perhaps the best performance of his career. He’s a smarmy, career-driven and backstabbing cop who couldn’t be less like Bud White and for the first half of the movie, the two don’t really connect in any meaningful way. That is, until what feels like a simple murder case spirals into a deeper conspiracy and the two cops are forced to work together.

Add to this a host of personalities which gives this corrupt cop saga some life. From Kevin Spacey’s celebrity cop, to James Cromwell’s “no nonsense” chief of police, through to the slimy reporter played by Danny DeVito or the femme fatale played by Kim Basinger. Its a great cast and the characters make this such a compelling movie.

The Cinematography of “L.A. Confidential” (1997) @ Evan E. Richards |  Cinematography, Best cinematography, Cinematographer

The mystery is a good one as well. Its a case which keeps you guessing, filled with red herrings, twists and always enough of a clue that you feel like you are on-top of it with the two detectives. Its a small saga and complex movie which touches upon topics such as corruption, racism and brutality which unfortunately all feel slightly too relevant today.

As the detectives get closer to the truth, the movie builds to a decent, action-filled climax which still keeps you guessing. Its the kind of movie where you don’t know who will comes out alive or even if the “good guys” will actually win in the end.

L.A. Confidential 20th anniversary: Inside its iconic noir style |

Its just unfortunate then that when the resolution and revelations of the mystery are finally exposed, you do find yourself slightly underwhelmed. For all the build, conspiracy and laying of clues to that point, the actual outcome still feels all too predictable and what should be a great moment and satisfying pay-off for the audience will leave some disappointed.

Overall, LA Confidential captures a style of movie and snapshot of time perfectly. This is down to the great characters who are written slightly one-dimensional but to great effect. They also deliver a fantastic mystery, with enough going on to keep you guessing throughout. Its just a shame that the resolution to the mystery couldn’t quite match the build.

Rating – 4

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

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