If there’s one thing about Curtin Hanson‘s superior L.A. Confidential (1997) that always pings in my mind, it’s that the whole whodunit element is pretty anticlimactic. I’m not badge-toting private eye—-or dick, for full self-serving disclosure—-but the identity of the person(s) behind the Nite Owl diner massacre, and ultimately the film’s entire plot, is rather obvious. I won’t go into specifics here, in the chance that one of the few people who’ll actually read this hasn’t seen the film yet and wants to crack the case themselves. The only reason I’m patting myself on the back is that so many of the reviews and praising write-ups about L.A. Confidential that I’ve read have harped on the story’s unpredictability. That its curtain-pulling is of the most surprising caliber. Not for me.
I will admit, though, that the traitor’s reveal scene is pulled off brilliantly. I knew it was dude all along and the switcheroo still caused a significant jolt. Imagine if I was totally in the blue when that moment fired through like a magnum slug.
None of this is to say that I dislike L.A. Confidential even the slightest bit. Hanson’s slice of 1950s pulp crime noir (based on James Ellroy’s 1990 novel) connects on all cylinders, everything from the bravura acting (particularly Russell Crowe‘s leather-tough brute of an officer) to the costumes and set designs that look and feel impeccably authentic; not that I’d know personally, but I can still speculate. In choosing one scene to broadcast as a Scene of Mine, the deliberation process was at first taxing. My gut said to rock with the shootout in the dingy apartment building that concludes with Guy Pearce squeezing his shotgun into the closing elevator door. That’s one hell of a last shot. Further brainwork made the choice obvious, however: the cops-vs-Mexican-prisoners brawl in the lower level of the precinct, on Christmas Eve night, dubbed by the press as “Bloody Christmas.” It’s integral to the narrative, and just a hoot to watch. Note Kevin Spacey‘s ever-cool knockout punch at the sight of his stained shirt.