…”or The Core Competency of Male Bonding and Friendship is Tossing Shit like Car Keys and Guns to Each Other a Lot.”
Curtis Hanson, 1997
Nearly my favorite movie and I’ve claimed it to be in those times when I’ve been inclined to proclaim such a thing. The sort of thing I like to throw on in the background, that I’m so familiar with I can dip in and out of it and be firm in its narrative as dazzling and complex as it is. This movie covers the spread of my obsessions: crime, codes of honor, shifting morality, racism(a true portrayal of it I mean), gunfights of real physicality, and the bonds men forge with each other.
Here is what I know of L.A. Confidential:
The book by James Ellroy as it stands is unadaptable. It is long and sprawling with like seven plot lines. In writing the script Hanson and screenwriter Brian Hedgeland (who might be the real genius of the movie, Hanson hasn’t done anything of note since Confidential, Hedgeland did the awesome Director’s Cut of Payback that had balls to it) decided to excise any scene that didn’t have Ed Exely, Jack Vincennes, or Bud White in it cutting it down to three. That means lots of information had to be moved around, in the “making of” doc they note the problem of figuring out what to do with the heroin.
That’s whats going on here and that’s what amazes me is how everything is important but also a macguffin. Everything is a small piece that leads to a dead-end until confluence and fate and blind luck are added in. The three leads are investigating…well that changes a lot of times in a consistent way. All the stuff with the Nite Owl Massacre just stops dead for a while while everyone has a change of consciousness and pools their resources. Interesting to note though that Bud White and Jack Vincennes barely appear on-screen together and never interact with one another even during the tailing scene. They orbit as characters around Exely and are aware of each other by reputation never understanding how entangled their lives are. Exely is the moral pivot but it’s not a constant morality. He almost gives it all away to the other two so that they can be better men, White gets to be happy with Lynne, Vincennes has a heroic death trying to do the right thing, but Exely is left on his own with nothing but ambiguity.
It’s all so well crafted and there is just reems of stuff to pick at here. I think I’ll be writing about this movie for a long time.
-Daniel Von Egidy, 2011