L.A. Confidential (1997)

Maybe it’s that too much time has passed since it was released to have a first-time watch, but I found “L.A. Confidential” surprisingly mediocre despite its on-screen and off-screen cache. In some ways it plays like a TV movie made with a rather naive audience in mind: I realize the movie is set in the more “innocent” 1950s but it’s trying so hard to be thought-provoking about and the blind sanctification afforded to white men in charge and its subsequent perversions of justice but it just ends up being redundant by pulling its punches. A modern audience is ahead of its characters so the experience is long-winded and frustrating, while the now-problematic casting of Russell Crowe and Kevin Spacey is also terribly distracting: Spacey, in particular, has become defined by the substantiated allegations against him so his smarm here hits a little too close to home. The movie is also stained by a lackluster leading performance by Guy Pearce, although thankfully Kim Basinger and (especially) James Cromwell manage to rise above thinly-written characters, each managing to bring much-needed life whenever onscreen. Ultimately it’s not a bad movie per se, director Curtis Hanson is a dependable studio director capable of making reasonably effective crowd-pleasers out of mediocre screenplays (like “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle” and “The River Wild”) so he brings a nice visual flourish and streamlined narrative that keep things moving, it’s just on the ‘meh’ side of things overall.

Rating: ★★ (out of 5)

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