LA Confidential

Year: 1997
Production Co: Regency Enterprises
Director: Curtis Hanson
Producer: Arnon Milchan
Writer: Brian Helgeland/James Ellroy/Curtis Hanson
Cast: Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger, James Cromwell, Danny De Vito, David Strathairn
The most commercial and enjoyable of films adapted from the works of James Ellroy, and a great hard-boiled thriller taken straight from the pages of a dime store pulp novel.

Sunny California of the 1950s shines with the gleam of a good economy, Hollywood dreams and an honest police force holding it all together.

Ellroy and Hanson in the helmer's chair peel the sheen back to show us the rot underneath – of crooked cops on the make, the business interests who have them in their pockets, the drugs starting to flood America and the violence and sex that really underpins the city's economic expansion.

This is a cartoonier second glance at the world of Chinatown with more comedy and action in the noirish mix. There's sleazy gossip rag publisher Sid (De Vito), only too pleased to cruelly double cross and then discard pretty rent boy Simon Baker (Denny, as he was then called).

There's flashy detective Jack Vincennes (Spacey), a little too interested in his connections to TV people but nevertheless straight. There's patriarchal police chief Dudley Smith (Cromwell), whose fatherly Irish exterior hides the mother of all corrupt cops. There's Lynn (Basinger), one of a fraternity of expensive hookers facially remodelled to look like movie stars of the day.

And at the centre of it all are two chalk and cheese detectives, straight-arrow dandy Ed Exley (Pearce) and brutish, no-nonsense hard man Bud White (Crowe).

When a bar fight that leaves a fellow cop dead overturns some shady dealings, White and Exley go after the truth using their own unique methods until they get too close to the ugly truth and have to team up for the film's blistering climatic shoot-out.

Even thought Crowe and Pearce played the main characters, neither were big league enough to warrant topline credits, so we're left with the curious situation where supporting performers Basinger and Spacey headline the movie.

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