Video Pick of the Week
One movie should have sunk "Titanic" in the 1997 Oscar race. That movie is "L. A. Confidential."
"L. A. Confidential" tells a tale of deceit and danger, lust and love, fame and misfortune. It is nostalgic of the glamour of the early days of Hollywood, twisted around a tale of police corruption and tabloid journalism.
"Confidential" is the ultimate moviegoer's movie: a seductive love story wrapped around an action-packed mystery, neatly packaged with a few intermittent laughs. It's filled with so many twists and turns, the audience is on a continuous joyride through the exciting Los Angeles of the Hollywood era.
Kevin Spacey heads up an all-star cast — including Russell Crowe, Kim Basinger, Guy Pearce and Danny DeVito — as Jack Vincennes, a smooth cop with a weakness for the limelight.
Along with Vincennes, Bud White (Crowe), and Ed Exley (Pearce) investigate the inner-workings of their own Los Angeles Police Department. As the movie progresses, the eager men find lies and deception lurking around every corner.
A violent multiple-murder jumpstarts the film, and (cue hero music) those fearless law enforcement boys get right on it. Throughout the investigation the men discover cover-ups and frauds involving the highest levels of the L.A.P.D., all while they're bribing tabloid papers, falling in love and brown-nosing to the department's chief of police.
And what about the Veronica Lake-lookalike-hooker, played by Basinger, who steals White's heart?
All these elements are very important in understanding the movie's tangled web of treachery and lust.
Written by Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson and directed by Hanson, "Confidential" has the workings of a great police melodrama. When policemen are good, they're handsome and do their jobs well. When they're bad, they're just bad. The characters are laid out in such a "the good, the bad, and the ugly" manner, that the audience has no decisions to make — they know who to like and who not to like.
This is totally refreshing since the viewer can then concentrate on the plot and yes, even the costumes, of the film. Once an understanding of the characters and their motives is attained, it's much easier to just watch the movie and enjoy it.
What's great about "Confidential" is that it's cool. The characters and scenery are so well adapted to the storyline, and the plot moves smoothly and without pretension. The cops walk, talk and ask questions with such a suave demeanor, one wouldn't know whether to answer their questions or ask for their autograph. Political officials are dirty and corrupt, and you can't wait for the cunning detectives to take them down.
The film's sleazy tabloid, "Hush-Hush," is reminiscent of the National Inquirer or Star, and every moviegoer can relate to the movie's sensationalism. (Come on, who hasn't flipped through those things while waiting at the check-out counter?)
"L. A. Confidential" is even better because it makes the viewer feel smart. The plot is so interwoven and interesting, it might take a while to understand the story and feel intelligent. But when it happens, the viewer reaches a point where it sits back, opens its mouth and eyes in wonder and exclaims, "Ah! Now I get it!"
But one must see the movie to find out how that happens. Because as the movie's tabloid paper announces, that information is "Off the record, on the q.t. and very hush-hush."
All Scene Stories for Thursday, September 9, 1999