Take a Drink: for Danny DeVito’s scuzzy voiceover
Take a Drink: for any instance of police breaking the rules… or worse
Take a Drink: when Russell Crowe kicks some ass and/or reacts violently when someone hurts a woman
Take a Drink: whenever a character does
Do a Shot: Russell Crowe Lives in My House!
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
In college, L.A. Confidential was one of my favorite films. I loved annoying my friends with my movie spinoff idea, Russell Crowe Lives in My House, a horror film in which Crowe bursts through walls and floors with his shotgun to slay sexy teenagers and/or home invaders.
I still think it is brilliant.
It’s a story of three 1950s police officers (Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, and Kevin Spacey) who have plenty of mental baggage and unsympathetic tendencies, but who unite to fight a large criminal conspiracy which they uncover after a puzzling murder. Also, Kim Basinger gets to be a pouty pinup bombshell.
It was kinda her thing.
Titanic might have walked away with all of 1997’s Oscars, but it had to go through L.A. Confidential for the majority of them. From top to bottom, this is a beautifully designed decorated, costumed, shot, written, and acted flick. Yeah, that’s pretty much everything.
It perfectly realizes the world of James Ellroy’s source novel- the dirty underbelly of Golden Age Hollywood-period Los Angeles, where crime and celebrity mixed in surprising and lurid ways and seedy tabloids like, well, Confidential (and the film’s fictional Hush-Hush) were there to capture it all.
The story, then, is appropriately sexy, violent, and twisty, and it’s impossible not to get caught in its coils. The violence in particular is surprisingly impactful- visceral and hard-hitting in a way today’s CGI blood and muzzle flash nonsense can’t match.
The character development is the opposite, though- subtle and gradual. Crowe and Pearce were purposefully cast so the audience wouldn’t have a preconceived notion of them (neither were known in the States at the time), and both start off as assholes. So does the third lead, Spacey, but everyone expected that.
He has a talent for devious puckering.
The beauty of the story is how they all end up redeemed in the eyes of the law and the audience by the end, without fundamentally changing who they are. They’re not perfect, but they get shit done, and in this world, you’ll take even a bittersweet imperfect victory at the end of the day.
Of course, it’s no accident that this was a launching pad for Pearce and Crowe who are both great, and Spacey shows his typical awesome brand of slimy charisma. David Straithairn also does atypical work in the same ballpark, and James Cromwell is just straight chilling.
The only person to walk away with an Oscar from this cast, though, was Basinger, and I just don’t get it. She’s born for the role, obviously, and she does a fine job playing a Noir temptress, but that’s as deep as the role goes. Surely it’s not the best the category had to offer that year.
Also, I love me some Danny DeVito, but the hambone muckraker he plays belongs in a different movie. Every time he shows up the tone of the film seesaws from serious drama into Always Sunny territory.
L.A. Confidential may not be the unassailable classic I remember from college, but it’s still a damn fine flick.
Last Call: Betcha didn’t know there was a mid-credits newsreel scene.