The film won two Oscars, for adapted screenplay by Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland, and Kim Basinger as supporting actress…but everybody knows that Oscar is no guarantee of entertainment or artistic value. Miraculously, L.A. Confidential has both and, although it’s not perfect, ranks among the ten or fifteen best crime movies ever made. The setting is 1953 Los Angeles as Ellroy sees that time and place. Helgeland/Hanson boil the novel down to three characters — tender hard-guy Bud White (Russell Crowe), careerist Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), and slippery Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) — and condense Ellroy’s sprawling, interconnected plot lines for maximum violence between those guys. Who’s behind the Nite Owl Massacre? Where does that fit with call girls surgically altered to resemble movie stars? How dirty is LAPD? Featuring a supporting cast of fine lead actors such as Danny De Vito and James Cromwell, Dante Spinotti’s so-sexy cinematography, and original music by Jerry Goldsmith, L.A. Confidential is like a prestige production out of the era it depicts. Almost twenty years after initial release, it’s still a pleasure to watch.
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