The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.
L.A. Confidential 
Directors: Curtis Hanson
When I played through the fantastic LA Noire video game this summer, I could not help but get swept into the dark and seedy world of 1940’s Los Angeles. Many, many articles and reviews on the game mentioned its influences: old school Film Noir, Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett novels, and perhaps the biggest, L.A. Confidential. I was ecstatic to finally see this 1997 modern noir title.
Set in 1950s Los Angeles, L.A. Confidential revolves around three officers in the LAPD. There’s Bud White (Russell Crowe), a quick-tempered cop who does anything to punish woman-beaters. There’s Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), a rookie officer who wants to do everything by the book and refuses to break the law to provide justice. Naturally, this makes him an outcast in the department. There’s Sgt. Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), a narcotics detective who is in cahoots with Hush-Hush tabloid magazine editor Sid Hudgeons (Danny DeVito). His side “job” is arresting celebrities and letting Sid take photos of them caught in the act.
These three men become intertwined in a web of corruption, deceit and lies within the police department, all of which happens after a coffee shop massacre leaves six people dead, including a crooked police officer. So many subplots, characters and areas are brought up throughout the film’s 138 minute runtime, but this is expertly manipulated by director Curtis Hanson in a way that brings everything together. It really is fascinating how the movie brings in so many different details, yet is able to have everything make sense in the end.
There are two other major players in the movie who must be mentioned. Dudley Smith (the always excellent James Cromwell) is the leader of the police department. He has a tendency to call his men “good lads” and encourages them to twist the law in order to deliver justice. Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger) is the female of choice, a Veronica Lake look-alike hooker who is dragged into the mess due to the coffee shop death of a fellow Hollywood starlet-imposter prostitute.
There is so much to like about L.A. Confidential. The acting is phenomenal, with what is truly an amazing cast. So many big names, all of whom are deserving of their recognition from this film. Guy Pearce in particular stood out to me, as he effortlessly succeeds in playing a sniveling little snitch who crawls under your skin. Yet by the end of the movie, his performance led me to gain a new-found respect for his character. Maybe there is some merit in playing by the rules?
Not once did L.A. Confidential feel tedious. The movie runs at a brisk pace with a lot of thrilling moments. The dialogue is sharp, the story elegant, and the characters are terrific. This is everything I could have hoped for in a modern noir, and as it stands right now, this is my favorite movie I have seen so far in this project. Simply amazing.