By my money, I consider James Ellroy’s “LA Confidential” to be one of the greatest crime dramas ever made. It’s an elaborate, morose, and brutally intelligent display of respective talents and truly keen storytelling that gets better with every single viewing. “LA Confidential” was not a real hit with me upon the first viewing; in fact I found it painfully mediocre once the credits began to roll. Suddenly, I found myself watching it repeatedly and soon discovered that it was a stellar piece of filmmaking that grew on me once I opened my mind a bit.
When you get down to the nitty gritty, “LA Confidential” is that period piece that takes such painstaking efforts in staying loyal to the decade that writers Helgeland and Hanson even pick up the colloquialisms with some of the most convincing deliveries of thirties one liners I’ve ever heard. Pair that up with the cast and you have a juggernaut of a masterpiece that was drowned out by the shit that was “Titanic.” Take the brilliant performances by Crowe, Pearce, Spacey, and a respective ensemble, and “LA Confidential” is a two fold murder mystery that transforms in to a slow boil take on government and police corruption at a time where racism and prejudice was a societal norm.
By my money it’s really Russell Crowe’s film and it was a deserving contender for the Best Picture of 1997, and a neo-noir masterpiece in the league of “Double Indemnity.” It’s a masterpiece crime thriller with an array of skilled actors given a hell of a DVD treatment with over three hours of extras, and a sound track disc for the DVD collector. Screw renting it, buy it and realize how much Hanson’s master work was robbed.
As for the DVD, we’re given a masterful selection of features and prizes for the collector, one in particular is a six track soundtrack of the film’s score with artists like Jackie Gleason, Johnny Mercer, Dean Martin, and Betty Hutton to name a few. My favorite of the six tracks would have to be track one, but track two “Look for the Silver Lining” is a nice little ditty.
On Disc One, we’re given a commentary with James Ellroy, Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, Guy Pearce, and a slew of others that I’m assuming is an older commentary but still damn incredible to listen to only because this movie deserves the sort of royal treatment. But they don’t sit around to talk and gab, it’s more a commentary on favorite scenes with separate voice over’s by the individual cast members which is a considerable let down. There’s also the film in the Music Only Track displaying the amazing score from Jerry Goldsmith, and there’s a Trailer Gallery with the teasers and full theatrical previews.
On Disc Two, “Whatever you Desire: Making LA Confidential” is one in many new featurettes ranging between thirty to sixty minutes. “Whatever you Desire” is definitely one of the better specials in the gallery and what fun it is to see interviews with Crowe. “Sunlight and Shadow” is the wonderful look at the importance of light and color in “LA Confidential and what character it brings to the story and it’s an incredible twenty one minute nod to the sheer pivotal impact shadows can have in a noir film. “A True Ensemble” is a twenty four minute look at the forming of the cast of the film and what they brought to the film and it’s quite a remarkable little glimpse at the creative process that went along with the construction of the production. Curtis Hanson also explains that he wanted unknowns for the two primary anti-heroes Ed and Bud, and it’s a genius move. Consider that Pearce and Crowe were virtual unknowns at the time.
“From Book to Screen” is a twenty one minute look at the transition from Ellroy’s printed word mystery to Hanson’s literal adaptation. It’s pretty obvious why Hanson was drawn to Ellroy and we learn that it was a feat for the director who wanted a challenge with the source material. “Off the Record” is an eighteen minute is an excellent interview with Hanson comparing his film to the likes of Bogie and Cagney, and he’s on the money. “LA Confidential” is in that royalty, and Hanson goes off on how honored he is to be in that arena.
He also candidly explains how hard it was to take unlikable characters and turn them in to sympathetic figures. “Photo Pitch” is an eight minute interview with Hanson on how he pitched the film to Warner Bros. through visualizations and 1930’s landmarks that would set the tone for his magnum opus. “The LA of LA Confidential” is an amazing looking at fifteen landmarks classic, ancient, and still running in Los Angeles with a map that points to the directions you want to learn more about personified through scenes from the film. My goodness. Last but not least we have the failed pilot to the series “LA Confidential” featuring Keifer Sutherland! It isn’t a bad series starter, but for what the film entailed, it’s too soft.