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(1997) (Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey) (R)

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Drama: Three police officers, each with their own distinct style of law enforcement, uncover conspiracy and corruption in their department.
In 1950's Los Angeles, three police officers have their own distinctive style of dealing with their jobs. Jack Vincennes (KEVIN SPACEY) is a cop on the take from a tabloid owner/reporter, Sid Hudgeons (DANNY DEVITO), whose magazine "Hush Hush" prominently features Jack's recent drug busts. Office Bud White (RUSSELL CROWE) is often used to physically beat confessions from suspects, but he especially loses his cool when women are the victims of any crime. Ed Exley (GUY PEARCE) is a straight-laced, by the books cop with big aspirations who looks down on his corrupt coworkers. After a police brutality case earns Ed a promotion, and his associates contempt for ratting on their guilty behavior, things seem very strained among the three. After one of their former partners is killed in what initially appears to be an unplanned homicide, however, they begin to come across certain unsettling evidence. Guided by their veteran captain, Dudley Smith (JAMES CROMWELL), the three begin to investigate many different players. These include Sid, Pierce Patchett (DAVID STRATHAIRN), a millionaire who provides high dollar celebrity look-alike prostitutes, and Lynn Bracken (KIM BASINGER), one of those hookers, all of whom lend just enough information to make the cops more suspicious of what's really going on. As they dig up more evidence, they find themselves pitted against each other as well as their own department as they uncover a deep tangle of police corruption and murderous activity.
Younger kids won't, but teens just might.
For strong violence and language, and for sexuality.
  • Of all the cast members, only GUY PEARCE is the closest to being a good role model and even his character uses developments stemming from wrongdoings to his advantage for promotion. The rest of the cast members (as described in "Plot") are corrupt cops, businessmen, criminals or prostitutes.


    OUR TAKE: 8 out of 10
    Films that feature large, ensemble casts are usually very good or very bad depending on whether keeping track of the cast members becomes confusing and tedious for the audience. Often times just remembering who's who diverts our attention away from the plot. Films such as "The Big Chill" successfully avoided that problem, and while "L.A. Confidential" is occasionally confusing -- due to many minor characters -- its fine acting and impressive storytelling makes up for that problem. Certainly the first serious awards contender of this fall's crop of movies, this is also one of the best movies of the year. That said, the film is also extremely violent, bloody, and has an assortment of characters who for the most part aren't the best people in the world. Thus it won't be suitable viewing for all audience members, but for those who can handle the material, they'll be in for quite a cinematic ride. This film does have some hokey moments, however, and they're related to the above-mentioned ensemble problem. Since there are so many characters in this feature, director Curtis Hanson ("The River Wild," "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle") is occasionally forced to show us -- as they used to do in the movies of the 40's and 50's -- an insert of the person they're talking about just so we know who that person is. While it isn't that bad and actually helps avoid any interruptive confusion, it does have something of a corny, antiquated feel to it. Of course the movie's set in the 50's, so it kind of fits in and thus doesn't stick out too badly. The performances from the large cast are tremendous with Spacey and Cromwell creating their usual distinctive characters, but the two outstanding performances come from Australian actors Guy Pearce ("The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert")and Russell Crowe (SID 6.7 in the 1995 film "Virtuosity"). Pearce, playing the straight-laced cop, benefits from his striking resemblance to actor Kent McCord who played another "by the books" cop, officer Jim Reed on the 1970's TV show, "Adam 12." Even so, Pearce embodies a character so distinctive from those found in that or most other cop shows/features that you'll remember the creation and the actor behind it long after you've seen this film. Everyone seems so perfectly cast for this period piece from Basinger as the golden-haired hooker to Devito's smarmy tabloid reporter. Of course they benefit from the plot that's always engaging, and while the movie's length is a bit long -- which is usually a point of contention for us -- the film never feels tedious or boring and actually picks up the pace as we head toward the tense and violent, but ultimately satisfactory end. Those who like "corruption in the force" movies will be thrilled by this one, while other audience members, if they can handle the material, will see a fine piece of ensemble acting and overall film making. We give "L.A. Confidential" an 8 out of 10.
    Most parents will probably find this film unsuitable for all but the oldest and most mature of teenagers. Nearly every character is corrupt in one way or another, including most of the police officers. Violence is extreme as many people are threatened, beaten up, or killed to keep the corruption flowing. Consequently the film has a great deal of gun use as well as bloodletting and profanity. While drugs are seen, we don't see any blatant use on screen although a good amount of smoking and drinking is observed. A fair amount of nudity is seen along with some (mostly) implied sexual activity between men and women, and between two men. All of that said, we strongly suggest that you read through the content should you or your children wish to see this film.

  • A mobster is noted for "running dope."
  • People drink champagne.
  • Bud and his partner, who appears to be a little drunk, stop at a liquor store for their Christmas party. There he sees Lynn who's also buying liquor. Later, they pour several bottles of liquor into egg nog at the party.
  • Several scenes show people being busted for marijuana possession, and in one, Vincennes pockets a bag of it.
  • A man seen with a bag of cocaine is shot dead.
  • Bud drinks Scotch.
  • People drink at a club.
  • A young bisexual man needs and has a drink before trying to "pick up" the male D.A.
  • Jack drinks in a bar.
  • Many people who are shot are consequently bloody.
  • Several Mexicans who are beat up by the cops are a little bloody.
  • In several scenes we see black and white photos of murder victims that show quite a bit of blood.
  • Ed comes across several people who've been murdered and who are very bloody (including a bathroom floor covered with bloody corpses).
  • Ed has blood on him after a deadly shootout with several thugs.
  • We see a dead young man on the floor with the carpet stained red from his blood.
  • Bud finds a badly decomposed body under a porch.
  • A cop is shot and a stream of blood runs down his chest.
  • An aged body is seen on an autopsy table with some bloody incisions on it.
  • Both Ed and Bud's faces have bloody scrapes and cuts after they fight.
  • Bud and Ed find another dead man whose wrists have been cut and are bloody as is the floor beneath them.
  • The last, long, violent shootout shows many people being killed who are also thus very bloody.
  • Obviously all of the police officers who are corrupt and "on the take" have both as do the criminals (including a group of rapists) as both groups take violent and occasionally deadly action to pursue their goals.
  • Some may view the fact that the only time Mexicans or African Americans are seen they're portrayed as criminals, but most of the (white) cops also fall into that same category.
  • Some scenes listed under "Violence" also fall into this category (cops beating up people, etc...).
  • Vincennes and Sid share a corrupt relationship where Sid tips off Vincennes for crimes to bust, who then allows Sid to get photos for his tabloid.
  • Some of the officers refer to several Mexicans (who've been arrested for beating up some cops) as "taco venders." Once they've been captured, most of the cops go into their cell and beat up the men.
  • Ed asks a suspect about his habit of shooting dogs to which the man replies that they (dogs) don't have any reason to live.
  • Bud shoots an unarmed (but guilty) suspect, and then plants a gun in his hand to look as if he shot at Bud first.
  • Viewers may find scenes listed under "Violence" as tense or suspenseful as well.
  • Ed responds to a homicide call at a coffee shop and slowly makes his way through the restaurant, his gun drawn, as he follows a blood trail into a back room.
  • Bud rushes into an interrogation room and holds his gun in a suspect's mouth (pulling the trigger several times) to make him talk.
  • Ed and another cop get into a deadly gun battle with several thugs that ends with Ed chasing after one of them down a hallway.
  • Bud smashes the D.A.'s head into a mirror and then dunks it several times into a toilet to get him to talk. When that doesn't work, he dangles him from his high rise window and threatens to drop him.
  • Ed and Bud find themselves surrounded by several bad cops who plan on killing them. The two race into a motel room and await the big gun battle.
  • Handguns/Shotguns/Machine guns/Knife: Used to threaten, wound, or kill many people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Phrases: "Balls" (testicles), "Dyke," "Screwed up," "Piss," "Jerk off," "Whores," "Bastard," "Wop" (ethnic slur), and "Slut."
  • There are strong bits of persuasion used by the corrupt cops to bring the straight-laced officer "over to their side," and some kids may identify with that or be in a similiar kind of situation.
  • Ed asks a suspect about his habit of shooting dogs to which the man replies that they (the dogs) don't have any reason to live.
  • Ed and another cop are surprised when a shotgun is suddenly aimed at them.
  • Bud pulls back a blanket under a porch that suddenly reveals several rats on top of a badly decomposed body.
  • There's a moderate amount of suspenseful music throughout the film.
  • None.
  • At least 25 "f" words (9 used sexually as is the phrase "screwed"), 14 "s" words, 2 slang terms involving male genitals (the "p" word and "c*cksucker"), 8 hells, 5 asses, 1 damn, 1 crap, and 3 uses of "G-damn," 2 uses each of "Jesus" and "Christ," and 1 use each of "Jesus Christ," "For God's sakes," "For Christ's sakes," and "Oh my God" as exclamations.
  • A drug bust interrupts a couple sitting on a bed and we see the woman's bare breasts.
  • Jack is assigned to the vice squad and looks at several black and white photos showing topless women and others tied to beds.
  • A woman goes to identify her daughter's body and when the sheet is pulled back we see the body's bare breasts.
  • Ed, who's interrogating three suspects, bluffs and accuses them separately of being or having "sissies," (homosexual acquaintances) while in prison.
  • One of three suspects accused or raping a woman says he just wanted to lose his "cherry" (virginity).
  • A nude woman is seen tied to a bed in the rape suspects' house.
  • We see tabloid photos of Lynn and one of her "clients" in the throes of sex, but no explicit nudity is seen.
  • Lynn shows quite a bit of cleavage in one of her dresses.
  • It's implied that Bud and Lynn have sex several times.
  • Sid and Jack get a known bisexual young man to "pick up" the male D.A. so that they can bust them and get photos at the same time. Later after the young man's been killed, it's noted that, among other things, he had sperm in his stomach contents.
  • Bud runs his hand up Lynn's thigh toward her crotch and later is seen undoing her dress, exposing her back down to the top of her butt.
  • Ed and Lynn passionately kiss and it's implied that they have sex (noted by black and white photos taken by Sid).
  • Set in the 1950's when it was more accepted, many of the cops and others, including Jack (who's seen several times doing so), smoke.
  • A woman identifies her daughter's body at the morgue.
  • Bud tells the story of being a kid and trying to save his mother from his father's physical abuse. He then mentions that while he was tied to the home's radiator he watched his father beat his mother to death with a tire iron and then had to wait three days before someone rescued him.
  • Police corruption.
  • What to do when you're the only one who's not breaking the law while everyone else around you is (and tries to get you to join them). Similarly, turning people in (or testifying against them) when they've broken the law.
  • Bud sees a husband getting rough with his wife, so to get his attention he pulls their Christmas sled from their roof. The husband comes out and throws several punches at Bud who then hits and knees this man before handcuffing him to the railing.
  • The cops, including Bud and Jack, severely beat up (punching, head butting, and smashing them into the cell bars) several Mexicans accused of beating up two other officers.
  • Four men are riddled by machine guns in two scenes.
  • There are many scenes where Bud is the "muscle" for Dudley and beats up witnesses or suspects who don't want to talk. Additionally, other cops participate in this as well.
  • Ed finds a dead cook and then a roomful of dead people piled on top of one another in a coffee shop.
  • A suspect is hit in the gut with the butt of a shotgun.
  • Ed asks a suspect about his habit of shooting dogs to which the man replies that they (the dogs) don't have any reason to live.
  • Bud rushes into an interrogation room and holds his gun in a suspect's mouth to make him talk.
  • Bud shoots an unarmed (but guilty) rape suspect.
  • Ed and another cop confront several suspects, and when a beer bottle crashes to the floor the shooting begins. At the end, the one cop and three suspects are all dead.
  • A young bisexual man is found dead on the floor of a motel.
  • Bud tells the story of being a kid and trying to save his mother from his father's physical abuse. He then mentions that while tied to the radiator he watched his father beat his mother to death with a tire iron and then had to wait three days before someone rescued him.
  • Bud finds a murdered body under a porch.
  • Bud grabs a man by his testicles to make his talk.
  • Dudley shoots and kills one of his own cops.
  • A man is interrogated, beaten up, and later killed.
  • Bud punches Lynn after learning that she had sex with Ed.
  • Bud then comes after Ed for the above and they fight each other with punches and bodies thrown about the office.
  • Bud smashes the D.A.'s head into a mirror and then dunks it several times into a toilet to get him to talk. When that doesn't work, he dangles him from his high rise window and threatens to drop him.
  • Bud and Ed find another dead man whose wrists have been cut.
  • Bud and Ed get into a long, bloody, and violent gun battle (and one knife stabbing) with many bad cops, and by the end of it most everyone is dead.

  • Reviewed September 3, 1997

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