RogerBW's Blog

L.A. Confidential 13 June 2022

1997 police/crime drama, dir. Curtis Hanson, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce: IMDb / allmovie. In 1950s Los Angeles, even the straight cops are bent.

For me this is another of those films that's noir-adjacent without quite being noir: yes, there are mean streets, but the men who walk down them are themselves mean. The closest we get to good guys are Bud, who goes after abusers of women with more vigour than the law requires (or indeed allows), but is happy to join the extralegal goon squad and indeed does a bit of abusing of his own; and Ed, who's certainly meant to be a straight arrow most of the time, but has a practical grasp on politics and a willingness to compromise that simply aren't consistent with the image he projects of a man willing to let the world burn rather than let the truth be buried.

Both of these roles are played by actors who were relatively unknown in Hollywood: Russell Crowe had been seen, if at all, in Romper Stomper, about neo-Nazis in suburban Melbourne, while Guy Pearce had been in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. For that reason, the producers wanted better-known names: Kevin Spacey plays well as the slimy cop who sees the light, Kim Basinger is mostly there to be a hooker with a heart of gold, and Danny de Vito gets away from his stereotyped "mobster" and "funny guy" roles with a very effective portrayal of an unpleasant person who nonetheless is useful and even sometimes amusing.

There are an awful lot of broken people here.

There's an interesting twist towards the end in which not just the narrative tone but the film's visual grammar switches from crime drama into Western: as the surviving good guys pull up at the motel for the meet that's obviously a trap, all the pretence of civilisation has been stripped off and all that matters is how tough you are. (This is a narrative that all too many people clearly want to believe in.) In retrospect much of the narrative seems to lead up to that: all the points of friction between the good guys (including "you slept with my girl") are gradually erased by them being Manly at each other.

This film was universally loved; if it hadn't been for Titanic it would probably have done even better than it did. But it strikes me as a very male film: it's not just that it's homosocial (inevitably, because almost everyone we meet is male), it's that the women are basically victims or prizes, never friends or partners, and I think it's that that prevents me from entirely enjoying it.

Once more if you want more of my witterings you should listen to Ribbon of Memes.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

Tags: film reviews

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2022 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1