L.A. Confidential (film)  

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L.A. Confidential is a 1997 neo-noir detective film based on James Ellroy's 1990 novel of the same title, the third book in his L.A. Quartet series. Like the book, the film tells the story of a group of LAPD officers in the year 1953, and the intersection of police corruption and Hollywood celebrity. The title refers to the 1950s scandal magazine Confidential, portrayed in the film as Hush-Hush. The film adaptation was produced and directed by Curtis Hanson and co-written by Hanson and Brian Helgeland.

At the time, Australian actor Guy Pearce and New Zealand actor Russell Crowe were relatively unknown in North America, and one of the film's backers, Peter Dennett, was worried about the lack of established stars in the lead roles. However, he supported Hanson's casting decisions and this gave the director the confidence to approach Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger, and Danny DeVito.

Critically acclaimed, the film holds a 99% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, as well as an aggregated rating of 90 on Metacritic. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning two: Basinger for Best Supporting Actress and Hanson and Helgeland for Best Adapted Screenplay; it lost every other category to Titanic.


In early 1950s Los Angeles, Sergeant Edmund "Ed" Exley (Guy Pearce), the son of a legendary LAPD detective, is determined to live up to his father's reputation. His intelligence, insistence on following regulations and cold demeanor contribute to his isolation from other officers. He exacerbates this resentment by volunteering to testify in a police brutality case, insisting on a promotion to Detective Lieutenant against the advice of Captain Dudley Smith (James Cromwell). Exley's ambition is fueled by the murder of his father by an unknown assailant, whom he refers to as "Rolo Tomassi" to give him personality.

Officer Wendell "Bud" White (Russell Crowe), whom Exley considers a "mindless thug", is a plainclothes officer obsessed with violently punishing woman-beaters. White comes to dislike Exley after White's partner, Dick Stensland, is terminated due to Exley's testimony in the Bloody Christmas scandal. White is sought out by Dudley for a job in which they harass and beat up out-of-town criminals trying to fill the void left in Los Angeles following the imprisonment of Mickey Cohen for tax evasion. The Nite Owl case becomes personal after Stensland is found to be one of the victims.

Sergeant Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) is a narcotics detective who moonlights as a technical advisor on Badge of Honor, a popular TV police drama series. He is connected with Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito), publisher of the Hush-Hush tabloid magazine, receiving kickbacks for tipping Hudgens off to celebrity arrests that will attract more readers to the magazine. When actor Matt Reynolds is killed during a scheme in which he is to be caught in a homosexual tryst with the L.A. District Attorney, Vincennes is determined to find his killer.

The three men individually investigate the Nite Owl killings, which initially look like a botched robbery resulting in six homicides, and concurrent events which reveal indications of corruption all around them. Exley pursues absolute justice, all the while trying to live up to his family name. White pursues Nite Owl victim Susan Lefferts, which leads him to Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger), a Veronica Lake look-alike prostitute with ties to the case he and Exley are investigating. White falls for Bracken, who later sleeps with Exley in order to allow Hudgens to take compromising photos of him. Vincennes follows up on a pornography racket with ties to both the Nite Owl and Bracken's wealthy pimp Pierce Patchett, operator of Fleur-de-Lis, a call-girl service that runs prostitutes altered by plastic surgery to resemble film stars.

Three African Americans are charged with the killings and later killed in a shootout. It is revealed that they were not the killers but gang rapists, and their Hispanic victim lied in her statement. Captain Smith was behind the Nite Owl killings, in an effort to take over the heroin empire that Mickey Cohen left behind. After killing Vincennes, Hudgens, and Patchett, Smith sends hitmen to murder White and Exley. However, while killing Vincennes, Smith had asked Vincennes whether he had any last words. Vincennes replied with "Rolo Tomassi," which arouses Exley's suspicion when Smith asks Exley who that is.

White and Exley, long-time rivals, start working together as they realize the truth of Smith's agenda and that they are at risk. Following Smith's attempt to have them killed, Smith shoots White but then surrenders to Exley. As police arrive, Exley shoots Smith in the back, killing him. The LAPD cover up Smith's crimes and say he died a hero in the shootout while protecting Exley, but Exley demands that he and White be rewarded for their cooperation in the deception.

Exley is praised as a hero and receives medals for his bravery, and the Police Department launch a top-to-bottom investigation of their men. Upon leaving City Hall, Exley sees Bracken, who tells him she has quit being a prostitute and is returning home to Arizona. In the back of her car sits White, who survived his gunshot wounds but is unable to talk. Exley and White shake hands and Bracken drives off into the sunset.


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