Director: Curtis Hanson
Writer: James Ellroy (novel) Brian Heigeland (screenplay)
Starring: Guy Pierce, Kevin Spacey, Russel Crowe, Kim Basinger
LA Confidential, simply put, is one of the most compelling, endlessly re-watchable thrillers of all time. One thing that distinguishes this film from its rivals is the faithfulness to its source material. I don’t mean the novel it was actually adapted from, James Elroy’s piece of the same name, which I haven’t read, I mean Dragnet (1952-9). Dragnet has its fingerprints all over the film, from the opening slightly satirical monologue delivered over a montage of scenes from the city, to the way the story tends to take place in a series of interrogations. However, this isn’t Dragnet, and modern audiences need a bit more nuance and a bit more honesty. Not every interrogation ends in a fade out. Some interrogations end in blood, some end in death, and some end in sex.
The interrogation that ends in sex is one of my favorite scenes in the movie. Kim Basinger (who won Best Actress for her performance) blazes the screen with wit, honesty and intensity. Her character Lynn Bracken distinguishes herself early as an intelligent and capable woman, but the world in which she works as a high-class call girl only values her sexuality. So when Ed Exley (Guy Pierce) knocks on her door in the middle of the night, and passionately kisses her, she resists at first. She even says “fucking me and fucking Bud White (Russel Crowe) aren’t the same thing you know?” Upon hearing this, a statement that correctly judged Exley’s true motives, he simply persists, and power relationships being what they were in the 50’s, she has no choice but to succumb. This quasi-rape scene spurs the film on to its conclusion, but more than just a plot point, it showcases in horrific microcosm one of the film’s central themes; that when the police outstep their bounds, they become indistinguishable from the criminals they fight against.
This theme is shone most obviously in the performance of Russel Crowe, who is stunning as veteran detective Bud White. When we first see officer White, he interrupts a domestic dispute not by ringing a doorbell or pounding on the door, but by yanking the christmas decorations off their roof. Though it turned out officer White was justified, as his actions did put at least a temporary halt to an ongoing case of domestic abuse, I wonder who was going to pay for the destroyed christmas decorations. Later in the film, White executes a man, shooting him in the chest, before taking care to pull out a second gun and stage the crime scene. Both White (Crowe) and Exley (Pierce) are weak and morally compromised in their own ways, but by the end, they must join together to reach a satisfactory conclusion. This brings us back to Dragnet.
Every episode of Dragnet ended with an arrest, showing that any mystery is solved and evil is punished, and though LA Confidential is definitely unconventional in most every respect, its ending draws everything together. Through the masterful performance of everyone involved, particularly James Cromwell whom I believe should’ve won an oscar for his portrayal of Captain Dudley Smith, Curtis Hanson (Director) stitched together a remarkably compelling history lesson. He shows through the slanted motives and animalistic desires of nearly each character involved, that nothing is exactly as it seems.
The texture flits in and out
like a spark hog, I guess, I mean a spark that’s all
like “I’m totally a spark n’ shit,” sparking shit blue moon
tongue depressors, but you knew this would happen, or preternaturally
supposed the future as it occurs, but sometimes it’s like yesterday
by the Beatles isn’t my favorite, ‘cause it’s kind
of doughty, it’s probably cause you hit her, whichever one that was
I forget shit all the time, and my girlfriend is increasingly reluctant
to believe thee readily evident, repeatedly reticent
panoramic period ending the sentence, and then it starts
“Again, crackers!” crackers this time, cheerio that is
as in “that is,” a good pip, when you pop.
explicative pretense denied, bitches, this is my coaster
rain-soaked chinchilla prostitute in the future, a pig in every poke
on the literal use of terms, pejorative leaning Mamet monologue
you son of a bitch, the truth handles your ass or some shit
I’m so Sorkin, showing itself a gag on fire
speech of truth, which has never been written
before now, madness fudge-battered cocaine spectacle
sounds tasty in the sun, but it would totally melt so
it would probably kill you, unless you were a hardcore
user specific, or lucky like me I guess.
Swelling like good songs, Strummer gone acoustic
spanish optimism, calming a steady breeze
curling inwards, patter past the pit
in your gut still clouds bang horizon
darkness towers forever
over us, all of us, struggle sharply instinctual
suicide, when it’s hard red eyes
frozen by the beat, clear blue
shattered with a ball peen
strike at the center mass, nothing of a cushion
underneath, shards will rain
over everyone on both sides
opposite the split, the river will run
red as the sclera screeching
from the blood shot, unplug in emergency
if at all like this, they’ve won already.
But they haven’t a knowing smirk
painted left to right like a comet trail
in the dawn light over the plain, booming a shattering
pulse throughout all reality, it seemed at the time
or must have had I been there, overconfidence
shaky fencepost complicit swaying
this and that, hesitance may be
a symbol of the soul or time ravaging
footprints in the sand, showing the way
enlightenment presents to us
going in circles, seeing blank horizon
everywhere forever on, footpads placing
pleasantly in the sand, it is warm
sustaining hilarious resonant contemplation.
Dream of having nothing at all, and think
what you’d be, fossilized snot bubble, skipping light
curmudgeon complaining, casting darts on the lawn in formation
spelling “THAT’S IT” or “THIS IS IT” just to fuck with people
in the morning
on their day off, they can’t read it
at first as they haven’t the angle, it takes time
to understand the meaning
of a disappointing slime leaking, it’s nothing.
at all dummy, this is nothing just like everything.
But people loved it, they went crazy
chanting intricately in column formations
and shit, assuming it’s a warning, filling a hole
with wishes written down and set
aflame, until a pit of ashes in its place
raked by an elderly Chinese man
wondering what the words had meant
becomes the sole symbol, showing that shadow
obscures nothing of note, and mystery is wanting
not finding a solution, the search itself is.
A mortal cloud sits affront me, at the sides
as well is a crunching Armada, and passing is Pointless
Shadow on the right, Vacuum on the left
with taunting vulgarity, chit chat hyper fuse
apocalypse bringer, Task Force United, T.F.U.
screamin’ up capitol streets with odd numbers
in ‘em, strangely catatonic facially
reconstructed bubble-butt beasts, the future is bringing
a porn mag in the bathroom, lockin’ the door
not for shame but safety, which is first
then teamwork, keeping cautious eyes
on each other permanent, just in case
interruption is lurkin’, shame over shoulder
Setta Strike, leading team Point Chuckle
up the park to the tennis court, a bad place
to be masturbating in the day, but at night
the sensation is priceless, I’m sure.
Secrecy is pleasurable, in itself by definition
inherent, being a sneaky little guttersnipe
shines a joy for the ages, saying “I did this”
knowing full well that you didn’t is a carnival
festival drunk in daytime new year Christmas day
funeral of a bastard that we all loved, singing drunky loops
by the jukebox, swaying with our fists in the air,
that’s the kind of fun to be found in a lie, especially when
it doesn’t mean anything, because you’ll get it
done before the “authority” knows
the difference, and the pace is yours to decide,
so the fashioning of progress reports is the pit of a port-a-potty
at burning man, all hell smell and maggot
spirit clusters, which, to each his own but is not my idea
of a good time, so I need my box of trinkets
pills and hand-held mirrors, remnants of a freedom
long lamented, kept in a safe and buried.
To say lying is never moral is a lie, catch 22
Kant you motherfucker, intellectual Circe
looping logic like olympic rings, writing
as an asshole, but his ideas make weighted
sense, vitally decisive, that which is
categorically imperative, showing logic
is the only law, act only in such a way
that the maxim by which your actions are directed
should become a universal law, for the benefit of all,
which might be true, though we’ll never know
after all is pronounced, because people suck
the big one when it comes to self
control, so laws like these, carefully considered
though they might be, may never survive
the span of a three-day weekend, because
I dream of right angles, straight lines
easy choices just, for they are not
we must consider them, watch yourself.
Poetry is forever vague, or merely thinly visible
like a fog, by the sense of it, unstructured
is the only way to be floating
cotton candy clouds, so like that
they point heaven’s way, maybe
this will be useful, to be beautiful
in pace and form, syllable structure
staccato, wise and deeply considered, flowing alike
a face first waterside, whooshing a’ la wave wind
whiskers, whatever again, point is
I can get distracted by the language, I apologize
for nothing, as this may come to a head
but I don’t care, because that would be the point.
Not yet however, as this is only volume
two, of how many I don’t know
there will be in the end, if one ever comes
like it will to everything, because topics may reveal
themselves at an accelerated rate, and probably
never finish, but I wonder what
I’ll uncover, and I’ll die in the attempt
to see the truth, so be it, for the destination
is a journey questioning existence?
Is it true that every journey, grand day out
tennis tournament and tea party, refutes the supposition
that we live in a Skinner box, prodded cattle through
holes in the sides, of course not, for as freedom
resides inside, you see in yourself that the matrix
is real after all, perhaps being the only solution
to be hoped for, there is no reason to peek
behind the curtain, really, as there is
no air in the open, either.
Gangrenous is our sense of society, everyone knows
what is wrong can’t be spoken
because all we have is a sense of it, the sinister
in every smile, watch out, young man, watch out you’ll crack
thumper him on the head, down to a standing eight
count at least, a wallet richer
inspecting the contents, shattered by emptiness
cracking a ribcage with no facial feeling
just because you had a bad day, the dark of it
which spread from the knowing it could happen
someday into the world was born, hoofbeats patter
through the window from the street.
Perhaps is his name and he broke
free in the market, spreading the stench of war
unspoken, my neighbors fear my skin
as well, causing shouting at town halls
message boards full of misspelled capitals
exclamation points and question marks, all meaning
nothing at all important, but the electric mania
is what I call it, as well as the beginning of the end
possibly should things continue the way they are.
Confidently ready the blades on your forearms, guardian soldier,
hold them up as a dangerous defense, they’re like you I guess
except you sometimes gotta shoot kids, which is not your fault
we both know, it just seems like they don’t pay you enough
to gamble with your life the way you do in the increasingly violent sectarian skirmishes
that just overtook the apartment building that is your life and you couldn’t
save anything, doesn’t it?
I guess I’m just saying it’s impossible that I’ll feel
completely calm in my position, most of the time, but I think it’s possible
that some of you will be called upon to make a choice which goes against the spirit
of everything you believe, or thought you would accept if given
the world on a string in a box.
What if heaven starts like a sun rainbow,
and ends like a head-heavy rocket fart?
What do we do then except ask
to join the purgatory that exists on earth, as we’ve all been dead many times
before, but we keep coming back.
Heaven is empty
of permanent civilian citizens living year-round, mostly
because spirits come to know how valuable pain can be, and they keep
going back over and over again, just hoping against hope it will be better
this time, and it always is, inevitably.
This way the spirits came to view pain and pleasure
very differently than we do, or you do, I forget who was
talking about the way there are spirits addicted to heaven
but their aren’t, or maybe there are.
This one time a spirit came back and said he’d had a great life
this time, as he’d been devoted to exquisite beauty flowing passion
pores through him with the breath of life, and he said it was so beautiful
he didn’t notice that reality was slipping from him, until psychosis took hold
making him murder seven people and hold his wife hostage until through a megaphone
she tore his life from hers, and he blew his brains out.
The murderers soul lay in limbo for a time, stretching its mind
out as far as it could go, seeing the experiences of all people in all times
simultaneously, until it could see the justice of it, the fact that there is
no justice, and never could be.