Monday, November 19, 2012

LA Confidential – The Movie

Saw LA Confidential in the theater. Rented it a few years later. Liked it maybe more. Decided to read the book. Library didn’t have it. Library had The Cold Six Thousand. Borrowed The Cold Six Thousand. Didn’t realize the title described the page length. Hated it. Most unpleasant reading experience ever. No more Ellroy for me.

Fast forward. I’m asked to review Blood’s a Rover. What the hell. It’s been a few years. My tastes evolve. My consciousness expands. I’ve showered. I devoured Blood’s a Rover. Rolled in it. Now I dig the devil dog. He hears his own drummer. Marches to it. Calls it names. Peeps on it. He’s hip. He gets it. He speaks truth. Added American Tabloid to the list. Have to read the LA Quarter in order. Work my up to LA Confidential. Settle for the movie for now.

Enough of that shit. The Beloved Spouse and I re-watched LA Confidential over the weekend. Damn near a perfect movie. Hard. Violent. Venal people. Tough language. (I said to stop that!)

Every time I see LA Confidential I like it a little more. I look forward to the favorite scenes like a Pulp Fiction fan boy. Good cop, bad cop, hanging the DA out the window. Rollo Tomasi. That is Lana Turner. Hold up your badge so they’ll know you’re a policeman. Even better, I learn a little about storytelling every time I watch LA Confidential. Getting into and out of scenes economically. Even more important, knowing how long to stay.

Not having read the book but having some familiarity with Ellroy, screenwriter Brian Helgeland and director Curtis Hanson must have done some major surgery to get the movie down it its fast-moving 138 minutes. The screenplay is seamless. Even if it’s not, Hanson’s direction, combined with a cast full of spot-on performances, keep any blemishes from sticking out.

The casting is inspired. Kevin Spacey and Kim Basinger were the names at the time, though Hanson had to fight the studio to use the 44-year-old Basinger. (Yeah, she was 44, kids. Can you spell MILF?) Two relatively unknown (at the time) Australians play the leads (Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce). Veteran character actor James Cromwell is a villain for the ages, only two years removed from his first starring role as the farmer in Babe. Danny DeVito was born to play Sid Hudgens, and David Straithairn can play just about anything well. All brought their A games.

If you haven’t seen it and are into crime fiction, hasten thee to Netflix post haste, though I wonder how into crime fiction you can be and not have seen LA Confidential. I’m a little jealous of you, getting to see it for the first time. While Hanson has done good work since—Wonder Boys and Too Big To Fail come to mind—LA Confidential stand above his work like the Hollywood sign. Everything else look up at it, and it will always be there. He made Ellroy’s work, never readily accessible to most readers, part of the mainstream, though a very strange and alternate route sort of part.

Still, no fucking way am I reading The Cold Six Thousand ever again.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Picked up THE COLD SIX THOUSAND when Borders closed but have never been able to read it either. Love some of the early ones though.

Charlieopera said...

I'm late to the dance, as usual. loved American Tabloid, one of my favorites ever ... but Cold 6,000 after trying to read White Jazz, ended my Elroy craze as well. Neither was readable for me. Gave a few tries to each, wanted my money back both times. Never again. The Playboy piece he did either was or was too much the same as the autobiographical book he did about his Mother.

Mike Dennis said...

Dana, I'm a huge Ellroy fan, having read the LA Quartet in order, then on to the Underworld USA Trilogy. AMERICAN TABLOID is my favorite of all of them, so when THE COLD SIX THOUSAND came out as the next book in the trilogy, I bought it immediately.

It was very rough sledding, and I noticed it became quite predictable the deeper into it I got. But it was Ellroy, after all. I kept going.

Finally, I got seven pages from the end ... and put it down! The book is what, like, 800 pages long or something? I made it to the last seven pages and said "Adios". No regrets.

When BLOOD'S A ROVER came out, I bought it right away and knew immediately that Ellroy was back on his game. I reviewed it in those terms on my website a couple of years back.

By the way, LA CONFIDENTIAL (the novel) is NOT the basis for the movie of the same name. The novel is unfilmable, as Ellroy correctly pointed out while he was cashing the humongous check the studio had written him for the rights to film it. What they did was cull certain aspects of the entire LA Quartet (it has somewhat of a continuing story arc), and condense them into the film we know as LA CONFIDENTIAL.

Dana King said...

I'd herd that before about the movie. However they did it, it was a hell of a job.