Director: Curtis Hanson
Screenwriters: Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland
Russell Crowe – Bud White
Guy Pearce – Ed Exley
Kevin Spacey – Jack Vincennes
Kim Basinger – Lynn Bracken
James Cromwell – Dudley Smith
Danny de Vito – Sid Hudgens
David Strathairn – Pierce Patchett
Ron Rifkin – Ellis Leow
It seems so simple, but boy, we’re talking about the perfect crime script. I haven’t seen his two last pictures – Lucky You and Chasing Mavericks, sadly neither of them premiered in the movies here in Brazil – but, anyway, the question remains: where the hell is Curtis Hanson?
He is a pretty good director; in fact, he was nominated for an Oscar for L.A. It’s noticeable that he is definitely good with actors. The entire cast is at the top of their game, mostly the two rising stars from Dingo and Kiwi land: Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe, who, in terms of Hollywood movies, were just beginning. Convincing is the defining word for both performances, Pearce as the smart, political and ambitious Lieutenant Detective Ed Exley and Crowe as the testosterone-fueled, bad-tempered and passionate Officer Bud White. You can see total immersion in their roles, even with regard to the smallest details, such as accent, costume, gun handling, the way policemen really talk and interrogate suspects... In other words, sheer dedication to their craft. They hold nothing back; both are electrifying. Check out the scene in which Crowe threatens to throw the DA from the eighth floor, through the window; or the one that Crowe is beating the hell out of Pearce in the police precinct, only to become BFFs moments later. I sincerely don’t understand why Kevin Spacey and Kim Basinger got more attention from the critics and general public. Spacey just had to summon Dean Martin from the dead, as he himself admitted, and Basinger was excellent at opening and closing doors. She also looked really good in a long dress.
Sorry, I got carried away with the actors, as I usually do. Let’s go back to the real master here, Mr. Hanson. I was saying that he is an above average director, especially when it comes to digging great work from his actors. However, his talents actually lie in his spectacular writing. Along with Brian Helgeland, another pro, they succeeded in writing perhaps the best crime film in the last 50 years. One could make the case that it must’ve been easy for them to write such a good script, since it is based on one of the best novels by James Ellroy, another master of his craft. But no, let’s not make the mistake of mixing media. My guess is that, even still on paper, before being filmed, the final script must’ve turned into a completely different animal. For them, the toughest struggle must have been keeping the plot from going in too many directions, because it damn well could have.
Take, for example, the subplot about Leland “Buzz” Meeks and Dick Stensland scoring huge amounts of heroine and getting killed for it. That’s the fact that puts everything in motion and the characters only mention it a couple of times, strictly to keep the plot moving and comprehensible. Like many other essential elements of the story, nothing is shown on screen. It’s safe to say that there is no unnecessary exposure; all the scenes and lines were trimmed so that there would be not one word in excess, not even a gesture out of place. Everything said and done helps the film move towards its ending.
A friend of mine noticed that L.A. Confidential is one of those movies that are all about characters doing their job. It seems that they do nothing else. The character’s personal lives are not given any particular attention; their pasts can only be imagined. He is right. In a movie like this, any sort of character development must be in some way connected to the story being told; otherwise it’s just fat.
I finish with a plea: Curtis Hanson! Please, we’ve been waiting for the next near-perfect script for too long! Come on, get to work!
Grade: F (for Fantastic)
Link at imdb.
P.S.: The beautiful artwork is by a close friend of mine, Felipe Sobreiro.