“What a load of rubbish! Kim Basinger didn’t even get her tits out!”
– a displeased cinemagoer, Wigan, Oct 1997
It is still great when you get a buzz about a film coming out, this happens rarer and rarer now, because of the internet, films get the buzz, but it isn’t as prolonged as it used to be. “The Artist” built up a buzz from Cannes in May last year and “L.A. Confidential” had quite a buzz from the states.
I saw this on a freebie (thanks The Guardian) at The Odeon in Manchester (Don’t look for it, it’s no longer there (well the building is still there)) and I was completely blown away. I used to go to the cinema a lot in those days, at least 30 times a year, so I did end up watching some rubbish and when this came along it was like a breath of fresh air (a feeling I have only experienced about a dozen times in the past 20 years).
Based on James Ellroy’s unfilmable novel about corruption in the LA police Dept, much of the novel is dumped by the screenplay adapted by Hanson and Brian Helgeland. In the late 1950’s three very different cops, Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey, fresh from Oscar glory in The Usual Suspects), dapper, expert, mildly corrupt and the liaison with a TV cop; Bud White (Russell Crowe, fresh from Home & Away), brutish, violent, corrupt and Ed Exley (Guy Pearce, fresh from Neighbours), handsome, the son of a cop, incorruptible, but a pain in the neck. All have a special relationship with Sgt Dudley Smith (James Cromwell, Babe’s dad) as they hunt the killers of a massacre at The Night Owl Café and every stone they unturn seems to go deeper and deeper towards police corruption in the LAPD.
The film has a feel like no other since Polanski’s “Chinatown”, not only is the acting spot on, the cinematography (Dante Spinotti), music and direction are all excellent. Curtis Hanson had just come off “The River Wild” which was notable for another Oscar nomination for Meryl Streep, if nothing else and since then has made “Wonder Boys” (Oscar for Bob Dylan) and 8 Mile (Oscar nomination for Eminem).
It had a budget of $35,000,000, but only made $53 million at the box office and so was considered a flop, even on Oscar night, it wasn’t to be, “Titanic” swept the board, but it did take home Best Supporting Actress (Kim Basinger) and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Well, by the end the citizens of LA can sleep easily in their beds, which was never Ellroy’s intention, but it doesn’t really matter this is a superb thriller that only comes around once in a generation. I watched it three times at the cinema, something I’ve only done once since.
US Opening 19/09/1997
UK Opening 31/10/1997
DF viewing 23/10/1997