L.A. Confidential (1997) Directed by Curtis Hanson
Being a huge James Ellroy fan and of Film Noir in general, I actually went to see this at The Cinema on release. Watching the film again (it's maybe my fourth time), it confirms to me that Hollywood cant do Ellroy. Let's not even broach the subject of De Palma's Black Dahlia. L.A. Confidential comes from Ellroy's famed L.A. Quartet of novels. The story is principally about three L.A. policemen investigating a diner shooting and discovering mass police corruption and of course, this being Ellroy, there are many strands to follow. It somehow misses the sweat and seediness that Ellroy brings to this story in his book. Hanson depicts 50's L.A. as far too pristine, every shot too studied in 'this is an important film' kinda way. This movie is slick. It also has a lot going for it. Acting is generally excellent, with Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey and James Cromwell all putting in good turns. Russell Crowe and Kim Basinger take the acting honors for me. Their scenes together have real chemistry. Crowe especially captures the spirit of Ellroy's Bud White. This was something of a comeback for Basinger and her Lynn Bracken lights up the screen with just the right amount of mature sexiness.
Of course, any modern Noir set in L.A. during this period will suffer poorly with comparisons to Polanski's Chinatown, but it's also fair to say that most movies would suffer those comparisons. This is a good movie rather than a great one and unfortunately Hanson can't resist the Hollywood cheese ending. A disappointment on some levels then, especially when you take into account the rather excellent source material and what could of been if directed by someone else (David Lynch perhaps?) Lets see if the George Clooney starring adaptation of White Jazz due this year will give Ellroy some celluloid justice.