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64. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: L.A. Confidential

May 8, 2018

Director: Curtis Hanson

Screenplay: Brian Helgeland, Curtis Hanson

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, David Strathairn, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito

Runtime: 138 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 1997

 

★★★★★

 

L.A. Confidential strips the neo from noir and gets back to basics. Launching the careers of Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe, this all-star tale of classic Hollywood is one of the finest Hollywood films of the 90s. An elusive tale of corruption, impulse, nicknames, glamour, fame and the justification of true justice.

 

Its three hero officers all do their best to unfold the labyrinth of this multilayered mystery in their own unique ways. Kevin Spacey’s indulgent and glorified hero figure, Crowe’s raging plainclothes defender and Pearce’s winged L.A. angel of unwavering truth all play to the lasting theme of societal morality in the face of villainy. Alongside the likes of femme fatale Kim Basinger and a slimy Danny DeVito amongst others, each of them fulfils the tropes and desires of their noir roots flawlessly without irony or falsehood – these are real, fleshly characters of truth and pragmatism.

 

This depiction of L.A. pays close attention to the specificity of background details, all the while placing the efforts of its characters drama at the forefront, exploring the difference between the images of fiction and iconography and the coarseness of reality – a culture selling a bona fide Hollywood vision, itself infected by the outsiders that come searching for the dream. The collaborative screenplay is a spectacular, able and intelligent achievement, and Curtis Hanson taps into this, producing a well made and fashionable picture. It’s certainly the best of his filmography to date, exposing his cryptic ingenuity and aptitude.

 

Enhanced by its gorgeous cinematography that exemplifies the glorious colour pallet encapsulated within its authentic sets and costume designs, as well as one of Goldsmith’s strongest scores, there is the beautiful genius of being able to make a modern film that looks and sounds as authentic as this - as if plucked ripe and ready from the Hollywood golden age.

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