1997 Movie Review: LA CONFIDENTIAL, 1997

 

LA CONFIDENTIAL MOVIE POSTER
LA CONFIDENTIAL, 1997
Movie Reviews

Directed by Curtis Hanson
Starring: Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, James Cromwell, Danny DeVito, Kim Basinger
Review by Brent Randall

SYNOPSIS:

The corruption existing within Los Angeles police force of the 1950s is exposed in this crime thriller.

WON 2 OSCARS – Best Supporting Actress (Basinger), Best Adapted Screenplay

REVIEW:

From the opening scene to the final credits, L.A. Confidential keeps you on the edge of your seat as it weaves through the murky waters of the Los Angeles police force. Set in the 1950s, the movie opens with discussing the wonders of Hollywood by showing a series of shots of the beach, the grand strand, and Hollywood, and how life in L.A. is better than anywhere on the planet, much less America, and the Los Angeles Police Department is the pride and joy of the City of Angels. After about five minutes of praising the city with a marvelous voice over from Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito), Hudgens shifts gears and begins shedding light on the mobster, Mickey Cohen (Paul Guilfoyle), and how Cohen is pushing heroine through the city and causing chaos in a clean and pristine town.

At first, it seems that the police force is dead set on snuffing out the crime with the arrest of Mickey Cohen in the opening sequence with their brilliant detectives, Bud White (Russell Crowe), Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), and Captain Dudley Smith (James Cromwell). However, it is merely an illusion, and the corruption within the famous police department is quickly exposed. As the viewer, you get the sense early, all is not right within when a brawl breaks out between the inmates and the policeman on Christmas Eve. Personally, I thought it was brilliant to stage the fight on Christmas Eve, a time known for peace and joy, and the fight is one of the most vicious, realistic fights I have seen in recent films. Shortly after the fight, the event that sends everything in motion is a horrific set of murders that occurred at the infamous “Night Owl” restaurant. A blood bath that took place over a failed robbery attempt in Captain Smith’s account. Captain Smith, who is always trying to get justice, in his own words, “swiftly and merciless”, pins the murders on three young black men who had previous records . Smith feels no one would raise too many questions regarding these suspects, and they could shut the case for good.

However, Bud White and Ed Exley, while not choosing to work together for most of the film, know something stinks about The Night Owl investigation, and desire to find some air freshener to eliminate the “smell.” They employ the help of Detective Jack Vincennes, which is brilliantly performed by Kevin Spacey, and Lynn Bracken, a high class hooker, played by Kim Basinger in her best performance ever, in my opinion. We quickly learn that Bud White believes in justice, cares for women, has a major temper, and is loyal to the department. Exley, on the other hand, is a kiss up, but also believes in justice. Throughout the movie, it is easy to see why these two do not get along, but one quickly learns they have much more in common than originally thought, and they both prove to be honest and men of integrity. Russell Crowe (playing Bud White) and Guy Pearce (playing Ed Exley) both give brilliant performances, and makes one realize the line between right and wrong is very, very, complicated and sometimes justice is found on both sides of this proverbial line.

Bud White is probably, in my opinion, Crowe’s best roll to date. Not to take away anything from the movie Gladiator, but in L.A. Confidential, his character is not always right, he is not always wrong, but his quest for justice and righteousness gives the viewer a real sense of hope. Bud White is a character, as a human being, I can relate to. He is real, honest, has major flaws, but genuinely seeks the good in all and more importantly, the good within himself.

In fact, Bud White and the other character is what makes this film great. The story line is solid, but as the film progresses, you find yourself loving some, hating others, and not sure how to take the rest. Some represent the good in the world, Bud White. Others represent the evil in the world, Captain Dudley Smith. Some represent the people who look out for themselves as in Jack Vincennes, and then there is Lynn Bracken. In my opinion, she represents the hope we all have as humans for a brighter future, and that hope along with her brilliant acting might be why she took home the best supporting actress Oscar.

From scene to scene, and character to character, this film keeps probing deeper and deeper into corruption and darkness in search of hope, justice, and peace. It grips your the viewer’s emotions and takes you on a roller coaster ride. The acting is brilliant, and the stars (Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Danny DeVito, Kim Basinger -just to name a few) are even brighter. It is a film that makes you want to search within yourself, question your own morality, and makes people realize that some of the worst enemies are the ones who appear to be friends, and vice versa. While it did not win best picture, (it was nominated and in my opinion, should have won!) it definitely qualifies as one of the best crime thrillers of all time.

 

LA CONFIDENTIAL, 1997

Film Review: THE RIVER WILD, 1994

Tribute review for director Curtis Hanson who died today at the age of 71. 

THE RIVER WILD MOVIE POSTER
THE RIVER WILD, 1994
Movie Reviews

Directed by Curtis Hanson
Starring: Meryl Streep, Kevin Bacon, David Strathairn, John C Reilly, Joseph Mazzello

SYNOPSIS:

Meryl Streep takes on a pair of armed killers while navigating a spectacularly violent river.

REVIEW:

I was in the middle of doing some pushing buttons work on the computer and I wanted to watch something while doing it to pass the time. So I flipped through the channels and saw that The River Wild was about to begin. I am always a fan of Meryl Streep because I love to analyze her body of work and the choices she makes. Yes, Streep will go down as one of the great actors of all-time, as she is an outstanding actor, but she also understands that it’s all about the films she works on. There are many a great actor who are lost in the wilderness of Hollywood because they work on mediocre films and few people know who they are. You are only as good as the team you work with and Streep knows that more than anyone. Chose your projects wisely.

There is a rule of thumb for actors (actors who have a choice of projects to pick) that you should only decide to work on a project if you can answer yes twice in the Rule of 3s. The Rule of 3s is that you feel confident in #1 – the script, #2 – the director and #3 – the actors already attached. If you can say yes to two, then you should do it but of course you are always looking to answer yes for all three. If you like the script and are not confident in the other two choices, then don’t do the project. The project will fail if only one answer out of the three questions is yes.

Streep (and her people) pick the right projects. And each project she does you will see that it’s something she’s never done before. She is always pushing her inner performance as far as she possibly can. All the while most of her films are recognized because she works on good projects with talented people.

The River Wild is Streep’s action film. She previously mastered the drama, the romance and the comedy genres, so action was next for her. As of this writing, it’s 2009 and I bet that she has a few fantasy and comic book movies in her to star in. Why not?

The setting of The River Wild is the world of white water rafting. Streep plays Gale, a history teacher mother of two who used to be a professional rafter. On vacation, she takes her son on the journey through the waters she grew up in. Along with her is her husband, but there is a lot of friction between the two. And the son has some issues too with his dad. But now there is just the three of them in a rafting boat with only the water (and their dog) and the beautiful scenery around them. A great place for a family to get reconnected.

Then they meet some drifters (Kevin Bacon and an up and coming actor John C. Reilly) who appear to be good people at the beginning but of course aren’t. Bacon always plays a good heel as he seems to enjoy chewing the scenery playing a man who’s a little unbalanced. His scenes with Streep are a lot of fun as they both are playing their own inner acting game. Streep’s close-ups in The River Wild are a thing of beauty as she is playing a type-A obsessive type who doesn’t like to lose but also a mother of two who’s first instinct is to protect her children. There’s a lot going on in those eyes of hers.

David Strathairn plays Streep’s husband. An actor who could be the greatest ‘that guy’ actor in cinema history. He’s been in 100s of films, but he’s never played the lead in a major Hollywoood film or doesn’t play the macho type of actor who plays army types or cops. He always does those roles that other actors don’t want to do or can’t do. A man who can tap into his emotional core and can be your average American. His role in The River Wild is the thankless role that if not performed right, will tear down the entire film.

So while doing my pushing buttons job, I watched a film that flew by as I enjoyed every minute. The themes of A River Wild are a little hokey as they try to tie the kidnapping angle with the reason a family gets closer together, which was a tad pushed. But overall this is a fun film. Director Curtis Hanson then went on to make two terrific films in LA Confidential and Wonder Boys as he caught the Meryl Streep magic. Take a look at the director’s next film after Streep worked with them. They all seem to make a terrific follow up film. Is it a coincidence? Or is it Meryl?

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Film Review: LA CONFIDENTIAL, 1997

Tribute review for director Curtis Hanson who died today at the age of 71. 


la_confidential_poster.jpgLA CONFIDENTIAL, 1997
Movie Reviews

Directed by Curtis Hanson
Starring: Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, James Cromwell, Danny DeVito, Kim Basinger
Review by Brent Randall

SYNOPSIS:

The corruption existing within Los Angeles police force of the 1950s is exposed in this crime thriller.

WON 2 OSCARS – Best Supporting Actress (Basinger), Best Adapted Screenplay

REVIEW:

From the opening scene to the final credits, L.A. Confidential keeps you on the edge of your seat as it weaves through the murky waters of the Los Angeles police force. Set in the 1950s, the movie opens with discussing the wonders of Hollywood by showing a series of shots of the beach, the grand strand, and Hollywood, and how life in L.A. is better than anywhere on the planet, much less America, and the Los Angeles Police Department is the pride and joy of the City of Angels. After about five minutes of praising the city with a marvelous voice over from Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito), Hudgens shifts gears and begins shedding light on the mobster, Mickey Cohen (Paul Guilfoyle), and how Cohen is pushing heroine through the city and causing chaos in a clean and pristine town.

At first, it seems that the police force is dead set on snuffing out the crime with the arrest of Mickey Cohen in the opening sequence with their brilliant detectives, Bud White (Russell Crowe), Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), and Captain Dudley Smith (James Cromwell). However, it is merely an illusion, and the corruption within the famous police department is quickly exposed. As the viewer, you get the sense early, all is not right within when a brawl breaks out between the inmates and the policeman on Christmas Eve. Personally, I thought it was brilliant to stage the fight on Christmas Eve, a time known for peace and joy, and the fight is one of the most vicious, realistic fights I have seen in recent films. Shortly after the fight, the event that sends everything in motion is a horrific set of murders that occurred at the infamous “Night Owl” restaurant. A blood bath that took place over a failed robbery attempt in Captain Smith’s account. Captain Smith, who is always trying to get justice, in his own words, “swiftly and merciless”, pins the murders on three young black men who had previous records . Smith feels no one would raise too many questions regarding these suspects, and they could shut the case for good.

However, Bud White and Ed Exley, while not choosing to work together for most of the film, know something stinks about The Night Owl investigation, and desire to find some air freshener to eliminate the “smell.” They employ the help of Detective Jack Vincennes, which is brilliantly performed by Kevin Spacey, and Lynn Bracken, a high class hooker, played by Kim Basinger in her best performance ever, in my opinion. We quickly learn that Bud White believes in justice, cares for women, has a major temper, and is loyal to the department. Exley, on the other hand, is a kiss up, but also believes in justice. Throughout the movie, it is easy to see why these two do not get along, but one quickly learns they have much more in common than originally thought, and they both prove to be honest and men of integrity. Russell Crowe (playing Bud White) and Guy Pearce (playing Ed Exley) both give brilliant performances, and makes one realize the line between right and wrong is very, very, complicated and sometimes justice is found on both sides of this proverbial line.

Bud White is probably, in my opinion, Crowe’s best roll to date. Not to take away anything from the movie Gladiator, but in L.A. Confidential, his character is not always right, he is not always wrong, but his quest for justice and righteousness gives the viewer a real sense of hope. Bud White is a character, as a human being, I can relate to. He is real, honest, has major flaws, but genuinely seeks the good in all and more importantly, the good within himself.

In fact, Bud White and the other character is what makes this film great. The story line is solid, but as the film progresses, you find yourself loving some, hating others, and not sure how to take the rest. Some represent the good in the world, Bud White. Others represent the evil in the world, Captain Dudley Smith. Some represent the people who look out for themselves as in Jack Vincennes, and then there is Lynn Bracken. In my opinion, she represents the hope we all have as humans for a brighter future, and that hope along with her brilliant acting might be why she took home the best supporting actress Oscar.

From scene to scene, and character to character, this film keeps probing deeper and deeper into corruption and darkness in search of hope, justice, and peace. It grips your the viewer’s emotions and takes you on a roller coaster ride. The acting is brilliant, and the stars (Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Danny DeVito, Kim Basinger -just to name a few) are even brighter. It is a film that makes you want to search within yourself, question your own morality, and makes people realize that some of the worst enemies are the ones who appear to be friends, and vice versa. While it did not win best picture, (it was nominated and in my opinion, should have won!) it definitely qualifies as one of the best crime thrillers of all time.

 

 

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Died Today (September 20th) – Director Curtis Hanson (1945–2016)

curtishanson.jpgCurtis Hanson (1945–2016)

Born: March 24, 1945 in Reno, Nevada, USA
Died: September 20, 2016 (age 71) in Los Angeles, California, USA

Oscar Winner for Best Screenplay (LA Confidential)

“For me, all good stories are about awareness. Self-awareness and lack of it, of how you get there and how you might fail to get there. Even Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) is about that to a degree. People discover who they are and what they’re all about by meeting their doppelgängers. I have deliberately tried to mix it up in my movies, because I enjoy visiting different worlds. However, thematically, I find that things keep coming up. Self-examination to begin with. You know, who am I, how did I get here and how do I become a better version of myself. Self-destructiveness, because that is the beginning or negation of self-examination”.

A River Wild
1994
dir. Hanson
Starring
Streep
Kevin Bacon
LA CONFIDENTIALLA Confidential
1997
dir. Hanson
starring
Crowe
Guy Pearce
Kevin Spacey
WONDER BOYSWonder Boys
2000
dir. Curtis Hanson
Starring
Michael Douglas
Holmes
LUCKY YOULucky You
2007
dir. Hanson
Starring
Eric Bana
Barrymore
Robert Duvall
MOVIE POSTERCHASING MAVERICKS
dir. Curtis Hanson
Stars:
Jonny Weston
Gerard Butler