Film Highlight: L.A. Confidential


Naturally, this Hollywood adaptation of James Ellroy's epic crime novel is slicker than the source, but it keeps a trace of the author's soul: That is, the plot's clues factor less to solve the crime than the deeper mystery of what makes the characters tick. There's also something of The Big Sleep in director Curtis Hanson's unfashionably pre-postmodern tour de force of early-'50s atmosphere, tight plotting, snappy dialogue, and sharply edited action—you know, all those quaint virtues from the old noirs. The tangled story—involving police corruption, heroin, porn, prostitution, rape, racism, freeway construction, and male bonding—is a doozy and impossible to summarize. Suffice it to say that a thick bulldog of a cop (Russell Crowe) finds his crime-busting opposite in a brainy and brown-nosing rookie (Guy Pearce), while an ultra-suave "celebrity crime stopper" (Kevin Spacey) seems to usher in the darkest dawn of pop culture. As in Ellroy, the naked city towers high above the men's L.A. stories—if only because the makers of this studio movie had the rare good taste not to cast huge stars.

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