L. A. Confidential

L. A. Confidential (1997)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, David Strathairn
Extras: Commentary Track, Isolated Score, Featurettes, Trailer Gallery

"L. A. Confidential" was clearly one of the best films of 1997, and it garnered an impressive number of Academy Award nominations. In a hopeless face-off against the behemoth "Titanic", it even succeeded in winning two of the awards, against all odds. One, as "Best Supporting Actress", went to Kim Basinger for her portrayal of the call girl Lynn Bracken; the other went to Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland for "Best Screenplay". It also won a huge number of Critic's Awards and other important industry honors, so clearly it is an important and impressive film and I was glad that Warner Home Video now also added a blu-Ray version of the film to their repertoire.

In Los Angeles of the 1950s a bunch of policemen try to stay on top of crime in the dark alleyways of the City of Angels. One of them is Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), a young aspiring police detective who tries to fill his father's shoes – a tall order, for his father was a highly decorated and respected detective who died in the line of duty. He is an extremely righteous – and ambitious – loner in a department where most other cops are trying to make a few bucks on the side. On the other side of the scale, there is Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), a celebrity among cops. He has achieved this notoriety by cleverly aligning himself with tabloid reporter Sid Hudgeons (Danny DeVito). The two of them have developed a scam that places the reporter and his trusty camera at the right place at the right time, prominently featuring Jack's criminal busts on the cover page of the sleazy magazine "Hush Hush".

Bud White (Russell Crowe) and Dick Stensland (Graham Beckel) are a team of policemen who believe more in curbside justice than in that meted out by courts of law – and they're not averse to setting up situations that will justify their actions. This corrupt attitude infects the police department – many of the other officers do the same thing, each of them covering for others in a code of silence. That is, until one drunken night, when a few righteously drunken policemen take out their frustration and aggression on some suspected cop-beaters; prisoners who are helpless in their cells. Exley testifies against these violent cops in exchange for a promotion to Homicide Detective status, and in return helps arrange a cover-up that will save the department's image. In order to restore order among the ranks and restore the public trust in the L. A. police force, Stensland is released from service. Two days later, he is found dead, shot in a mysterious all-night diner hold-up. Thus begins the intrigue. Digging into the case for their personal ambitions, Exley, Vincennes and White make their own discoveries, none of which make a whole lot of sense – but when more and more bodies pile up, they start putting their pieces together for the bigger picture. A picture bigger and badder than they had ever imagined, showing the real underbelly of the beast.

Much of the film's charm is a result of the elaborate and faithful production design, and the fact that it actually manages to revive a lost era, when Los Angeles was Hollywood, a glamorous city of sin and every careerist's dream. The film is beautiful to behold and it perfectly lays out the street rules of the city. It is a city of vice, corruption, tabloid press, drugs, glamour, hookers, money, and more. Not since "Chinatown" has there been a noir movie that has so faithfully captured the spirit of LA in days past.

It is interesting to note that "L.A. Confidential" was the launch platform for Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce, both of which have since gone on to do remarkable projects and movies. Both actors were real discoveries when the movie first premiered as they easily held their own against heavyweights like Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito, making them almost look like supporting cast members. The film's script creates very dimensional characters with depth and motivations that go beyond the scope of the film. This richness in their back story makes them believable, sympathetic, and firmly plants them in the scenario laid out for our enjoyment.

Warner Home Video is offering up "L.A. Confidential" here as a wonderfully rich Special Edition, containing the movie itself in an absolutely gorgeous 1080p high definition transfer in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio. Dazzling the eye with its dramatic film noir look that creates very bold contrasts and incredibly deep shadows, this transfer manages to reproduce every little bit of it faithfully. Complemented by the incredibly bold and rich colors used in the film, this is a transfer worth beholding. With a richness in details and razor-sharply defined edges, you will cherish every moment of this film when you watch it in this high definition presentation.

"L.A. Confidential" has an amazing soundtrack, written by one of the industry's greatest composers, the late Jerry Goldsmith. The soundtrack was nominated for an Academy Award, but unfortunately lost – though in my opinion, it was the superior soundtrack – to James Horner's "Titanic" soundtrack. The orchestral score he wrote for this film is both contemporary and daring, as many of Jerry's best scores are. He managed to capture the unique flair of the times when the story takes place, while utilizing elements and styles that do not immediately spring to mind when thinking of the era. It clearly shows that his passion for music was still untamed, even after over 40 years of film scoring. As an additional piece of candy, Warner have also created a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital soundtrack that contains Jerry Goldsmith's isolated orchestral score only, like they did on the DVD version years ago. This score is definitely a must for every aficionado of film music or aspiring composer, because it displays Goldsmith's skills without any distraction through sound effects or dialog cues. It gives you a good chance to study how he manages to let the visuals and the music work with each other and how masterfully many pieces of the music are placed and woven into the context of the film. It also brings out the fine nuances he has put into his arrangements, which otherwise get lost in the overall cacophony of the film.

This release is a completely new Special Edition – which also available on DVD now – and offers a whole lot of new bonus materials, including a commentary track that features many of the cast and crew members who helped make this film a reality.

Also among the new features is a series of documentaries, covering all kinds of aspects of the movie's production. Examining the making of the film, the visual style of the production, the cast and the adaptation of the novel for the screen, these featurettes offer a very detailed and intriguing insight into the history of the film. The TV series pilot, the interview featurette "Off The Record" and director Curtis Hanson's photo pitch of the movie are also included, culled from the previous DVD release.

"L. A. Confidential" is an atmospheric and ambitious movie that will capture you right from the start. It is masterfully crafted and all the elements work together so effortlessly that it lets you dive right into the movie's story and enchanting atmosphere. It truly brings to life the Los Angeles of the fifties, and it uses a compelling crime story to present you with all those settings and feelings. It is a film crafted in the best Hollywood tradition and it clearly was one of the best modern noir films. Do yourself a favor and take a look at this release. It is worth it and will make you forget the world around you for two hours.