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L.A. CONFIDENTIAL

Without a doubt, TITANIC was the popular and sentimental favorite with audiences and the Motion Picture Academy for the 1997-98 movie season. However, I have to give credit where credit is due. As a film, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL ($25) topped TITANIC with a superior story and better acting. Where TITANIC fed its audience’s heart with its emotional story, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL fed its audience’s head with its twisting and turning tale that kept them guessing. Based upon the novel by James Ellroy, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL is the story of police corruption set against a backdrop of glamour and sleaze in 1950’s Los Angeles. In Ellroy’s novel, fact and fiction merged, giving the characters in the book their own "reality."

The film version of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL brilliantly adapts the essentials of the novel to produce a film with manageable running time, while maintaining the heart and soul of Ellroy’s characters. The plot follows the investigation into the death of a disgraced cop, whose body was found at the scene of a bungled restaurant hold-up. Since a former cop was victim of the crime, the police department makes it a top priority to catch the killers. Things fall into place rather quickly with the lead investigator arresting three very guilty looking suspects. Somehow, the suspects manage to escape from jail, but are then killed in a second arrest attempt. The deaths of the three suspects put an official closure on the case; but in the world of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, things seldom tie up into neat little packages. There are some loose ends that lead three cops (of dubious backgrounds) into a deadly labyrinthine conspiracy involving a number of highly placed individuals.

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL is tightly directed by Curtis Hanson and features rich performances from its marvelous ensemble cast. Kevin Spacey is slick and smooth as detective Jack Vincennes, a man who has been seduced by the glamour of Hollywood and living for his sweet gig as a technical advisor to a popular television cop show. Russell Crowe shows amazing depth as detective Bud White, a brutal cop whose weakness for women in distress may be his only hope of salvation. Guy Pearce delivers the film’s most intriguing performance as detective Ed Exley, an ambitious and opportunistic cop who soon discovers that his "principles" won’t help him in the real world. James Cromwell has appeared in so many recent films that he has become the most popular character actors working today. In the role of police captain Dudley Smith, Cromwell delivers another top-notch and highly memorable performance. Kim Basinger’s Oscar winning performance as call girl Lynn Bracken is simply fabulous. Basinger brings a depth of feeling to the role that demonstrates that her talents are sorely wasted in most of her other films. Finally, there is Danny DeVito who adds just the right combination of malice and humor to the role of sleazy tabloid journalist Sid Hudgeons.

Warner Home Video offers L.A. CONFIDENTIAL on DVD in an anamorphic enhanced wide screen presentation that is simply stunning. The Letterboxed transfer restores most of the film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio, with only the slightest bit of information being lost from the extreme edges of the screen. Dante Spinotti’s glorious cinematography is reproduced with amazing clarity and depth. Colors appear natural, yet saturation is excellent with a total lack of video noise in the hot colors. Digital compression artifacts were difficult to discern on this DVD.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has a very interesting mix. Much of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL is presented in a tight monaural which emulates the film’s early 1950’s setting, but some of the film’s larger moments explode out from every one of the discrete channels totally overwhelming and enveloping the viewer. Other soundtrack options include a French Dolby Digital 5.1 channel track as well as Jerry Goldsmith’s brilliant, smoky score presented in an isolated Dolby Digital 5.1 channel track. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish. This deluxe DVD deploys dual layer technology to handle the film’s extended running time as well as supplemental features.

The supplements are available through the DVD’s very cool menus. Two entertaining and informative documentary featurettes have been included on the DVD. Interviews with the cast and filmmakers are interwoven into "Off The Record", while Curtis Hanson’s "Photo Pitch" covers the director’s personal vision for the film. "The L.A. Of L.A. Confidential" interactive map takes the viewer into the realm of the film, presenting background on the 1950’s Hollywood locations depicted in the film. Other supplements include theatrical trailers, television spots, production notes and cast and crew biographies/filmographies.

If you love cinema, you’ll want to own L.A. CONFIDENTIAL. Even if you are only interested in well-produced DVDs, you’ll want to own L.A. CONFIDENTIAL. Either way, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL gets the highest recommendation I can give.

 
L.A. CONFIDENTIAL 


L.A. Confidential

ENHANCED FOR 16:9 TELEVISIONS 

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DVD reviews are Copyright 1998 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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