Directed By: Curtis Hanson
Written By: James Ellroy (novel), Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson (screenplay)
I consider this to be one of the best movies I have ever seen. It is a perfect movie and that puts it in an upper echelon with only a few others. I see this movie in the same light as The Godfather, Casablanca, or Full Metal Jacket. Movies this good suck you in and make you part of their world. They leave an impression on you and every time you see them they get better. This movie is a hit on all levels and it blows me away every single time I see it. I think our timing to reach this movie in the collection is awesome because coincidentally we watched Gangster Squad last night. That movie has a very similar story line to this one and watching them back to back has given us the opportunity to accurately contrast the two. Gangster Squad wasn’t that great and specifically once put up next to this one it seems like a horrible movie. It wasn’t a horrible movie, it just simply doesn’t compare to this one in any way, shape, or form.
This movie takes place in such an interesting time and place for our country. Having grown up and spent my entire life on the east coast I have always had a fascination with the wild wild west. Things were always done a bit differently out there as the rest of the country and authority slowly made their way over through expansion and development. The West might be different altogether but there is specifically something different and unique about Los Angeles, and the whole Hollywood world. Right and wrong are different there; it’s a world influenced by corruption, glamour, and greed. It is influenced by the people that built it and to understand that you have to understand the people that built it. The men who built the west were men who decided to go for a hundred different reasons. They went for opportunity, they went to build a new life, and they went for the promise of work, gold, oil, and even fame. They came from all over the country and from a large variety of backgrounds. They built something out there and the minute others started to notice what they had done they began looking for ways to move in and take advantage of the opportunities now available there. Well like I said, things are different in the west. Why let mobsters move into town and run the rackets when the local authorities can simply make all that money themselves? I know that this movie is based in truth but admittedly don’t know enough about the accuracy of it. Nevertheless it is an awesome story and one that really does garner some more research on my part, eventually.
Curtis Hanson really hasn’t made that many movies that I found impressive but his name always immediately grab my attention. No matter what else he has done, he was the guy that made this movie and doesn’t that say everything you need to know about him? His camera work and storytelling are so incredible in this movie. I have always admired how he leads you through the crime scene at the Night Owl and you take everything in together with Detective Exley as he investigates the crime scene. I love what he does with these three diverse and different police officers and how he manages to make us emotionally invested in all three of them. I love the arc each one of them has as a character and I love the men who were chose to play the parts. I think the story in this movie is fantastic. It’s so satisfyingly violent and intelligent at the same time with a little bit of sex and scandal thrown in for good measure. It is a story that never fails to captivate and hold my attention. The only other movie I really liked from Hanson was 8 Mile, and that is liked only from an admitted biased opinion based on being a fan of Eminem. Like I said though, it doesn’t matter what else Curtis Hanson has done. He did this, and that gives him credibility for a lifetime as far as I’m concerned.
When discussing the cast I want to start with Guy Pearce as Detective Exley. Not because I think he was the best, in fact I really don’t like him at all, but his performance is seriously one of the best I have ever seen. Detective Exley isn’t a likable character and you immediately begin to despise him. As the movie progresses you can’t help but feel differently and the more you watch the more you begin to like Exley. Pearce plays the part so well and I am literally shocked to find myself so impressed with it every time I see it. He is such a little weasel till he interrogates the Night Owl suspects. He is such a badass in that scene he doesn’t just deserve but practically comes through the screen and demands your respect by force. Once he establishes himself as a badass he just continues to keep it up for the whole movie. Whether he is shooting all of the bad guys, throwing caution to the wind to do what is right, sleeping with his rival’s girlfriend, or manipulating a massacre to his own advantage he is doing it all as a badass. I love the respect he develops for his rival Bud White and the ass whooping he accepts when he knows he has wronged him. I have never seen another movie where I saw what Guy Pearce did and thought “wow, he really did a great job in that movie.” I simply don’t like the guy and think he brings nothing to the table. I can’t deny him this role though; he should have been nominated for it and taken the award home with him. If he ever showed up for work and really brought it, it was on the set of this movie.
While I am incredibly impressed by the part played by Pearce my favorite is the most popular part played in this movie, by Russell Crowe. This was Russell Crowe’s first major American role and it set the tone for his entire career. He has been one of the best leading men of the last fifteen years because he is an outstanding actor. In this movie he burst onto the scene with aggression and brutality. He plays the tough guy that is underestimated by everybody and proves to be much more than meets the eye. As the movie progresses we see that he has the intelligence and detective skills to match his brutality. The character then goes even deeper as we learn about his past and see his softer side when he is with Lynn Bracken. When he confronts her after finding out about her and Exley you can feel his pain as his anger gets the best of him. Another scene in which you feel his anger is that of the interrogation scene when Exley shines. That scene showed us two things, one being that Exley was way more badass than we thought, the other being that Bud White is every bit the badass we think he is and more. This is one of Crowe’s finest roles and I think he also should have been nominated for the part.
I am and always have been a huge fan of Kevin Spacey. The character of Lester Burnham he would play a couple of years later taught me quite a bit about life. I do not know what has happened to him these days though. He is an incredible and academy award winning actor who has simply fallen off the map for some reason. The last thing I saw him in was Horrible Bosses and it wasn’t one of his finest roles. As Jack Vincennes he is the sleazy cop that suddenly finds purpose in himself again. He has been dirty for so long he forgot about all the right reasons he joined the force for in the first place. As he begins to realize those things he starts to discover the skills that got him to the top and he uses them to do the right thing. Until doing the right thing gets him killed that is. That’s how it happens for the bad guy that decides to do good though, it’s an irony that is worth dying for to make that character a martyr. Vincennes became a martyr and a hero with his dying breathe by finding out the cleverest way to warn Exley. All past digressions forgiven, he died a hero and might have ended up with his name plastered somewhere in the city of Los Angeles. I don’t know what has been up with Kevin Spacey but I will always have my eye on what he is doing because within him are more performances of this caliber, I know it.
The rest of the cast was just as stellar and on point as the three most important I have already discussed. James Cromwell is a fantastic actor and can play any part in any movie. He can do it all pretty good but it turns out he can pull off mastermind villain pretty well as we see in this film. David Strathairn plays one of his best roles as Pierce Patchett. I have always liked Strathairn; he carries an air of dignity with him that makes him great for roles like this. I am a big fan of Danny DeVito and like what he brought to the movie as well. I have mentioned many times that I don’t like where his career has now led him but I think for the majority of his time in the business he has been very successful.
Kim Basinger won the Academy Award for this movie and was the only one to win the award for any of the performances in the movie. I don’t understand that and practically consider it a crime. I think she did a good enough job as Lynn Bracken but I don’t know how her performance warranted that kind of reward when some of the others weren’t even nominated. This movie was without a doubt her greatest performance as an actress but I don’t think she had much competition from her other roles. Basinger is one of those women who made her career on her looks and not her talent and truthfully she has just never done it for me.
I honestly believe this movie is better each and every time I watch it. As I already said I think this is a perfect movie and the fact that it seems better every time I watch it only reinforces that opinion. As for Gangster Squad, it just didn’t have the raw and real element that this one had. I knew things were going to be like that when we first met Josh Brolin’s character and he “Jack Bauer-ed” a room full of armed men. It’s just a bit too over the top and unrealistic. When Bud White got angry he whooped ass on anybody within reach but not even he would have assaulted a crime base single handedly and walked out all hunky dory. I think Sean Penn played an exceptional part as Mickey Cohen but even he was a bit over the top and exaggerated for effect. Gangster Squad is a film for the amateur movie fan but this movie is for those of us who really appreciate the art of film making.
This is a flawless movie and is without doubt worth your time. It isn’t a movie that gets a lot of replay on TV and it isn’t brought up on a regular basis these days. That is a crime. This movie deserves its own three night weekend on AMC like The Godfather gets. It’s that good of a movie and if you haven’t seen it I suggest you seek it out and take the time to watch it. Incredible film that will always be one of my favorites.
Ryan loves this movie and wrote a ton so in true Amber fashion, I will keep it short. This is a great crime movie. It captures your attention and keeps it throughout. The actors are perfect for their roles and do such a great job. It’s a really good flick that is definitely worth watching.
Oh no. Another poster where they are trying to fit in way too many characters. This is not very successful either. Don’t miss the faded out guy right beside the word confidential. They also cut off Basinger’s head at the top with a solid black bar for the names. Bad call. The best thing about this poster is the marketing/advertising ploy behind the whole thing. Who is the target audience for this movie? Men. What do [some] men love? Boobies. That’s all any man really needed to see to want to see this movie.
NEXT MOVIE: Lady in the Water (2006)