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Based upon James Ellroy’s novel that merged fact and fiction in 1950’s Los Angeles, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL ($29) tells the story of murder, police brutality and corruption set against the glamour and sleaze of Tinseltown. The film version of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL brilliantly adapts the essentials of the novel to produce a film with manageable running time, while maintaining the heart and soul of Ellroy’s characters. The plot follows the investigation into the death of a disgraced cop, whose body was found at the scene of a bungled restaurant hold-up. Since a former cop was victim of the crime, the police department makes it a top priority to catch the killers. Things fall into place rather quickly, with the lead investigator arresting three very guilty looking suspects. Somehow, the suspects manage to escape from jail, but are then killed in a second arrest attempt. The deaths of the three suspects put an official closure on the case; but in the world of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, things seldom tie up into neat little packages. There are some loose ends that lead three cops (of dubious backgrounds) into a deadly labyrinthine conspiracy involving a number of highly placed individuals.

What sets L.A. CONFIDENTIAL apart from the rest of the pack is the tight direction of Curtis Hanson, as well as features rich performances from its marvelous ensemble cast. Kevin Spacey is slick and smooth as detective Jack Vincennes, a man who has been seduced by the glamour of Hollywood and his sweet gig as a technical advisor to a popular television cop show. Russell Crowe shows amazing depth as detective Bud White, a brutal cop whose weakness for women in distress may be his only hope of salvation. Guy Pearce delivers the film’s most intriguing performance as detective Ed Exley, an ambitious and opportunistic cop who soon discovers that his "principles" won’t help him in the real world. In the role of police captain Dudley Smith, James Cromwell delivers a top-notch and highly memorable performance. Kim Basinger’s Oscar winning turn as call girl Lynn Bracken is simply fabulous. Basinger brings a depth of feeling to the role that demonstrates that her talents were sorely wasted in most of her other films up till that point. Finally, there is Danny DeVito who adds just the right combination of malice and humor to the role of sleazy tabloid journalist Sid Hudgeons.

Warner Home Video has made L.A. CONFIDENTIAL available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation is truly beautiful, wonderfully dimensional and very film like. Dante Spinotti’s cinematography has a mildly glamorized quality that gives the look of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL its period flavor. Image sharpness and detail are really great; even fine details and the textures of objects are very well rendered, although not at the level one sees in brand new films. Colors can are rich and full-bodied, while the flesh tones are quite appealing. Blacks are pure, as are the whites. Contrast is smooth, plus the picture produces a terrific level of shadow detail. The elements from which L.A. CONFIDENTIAL have been transferred appear relatively free from blemishes. Grain is mild, with the presentation maintaining a highly organic quality.

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. This is an excellent sounding track, with full, rich musical fidelity that greatly benefits Jerry Goldsmith’s marvelous Academy Award nominated score. Considering that much of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL falls into the realm of talky drama and police procedural, the sound design doesn’t have the level of activity one finds in an action movie. Much of the sound is localized to the forward soundstage, although the rears are well utilized for a good deal of atmospherics and fill. However, there are moments with more action, in which the sound effects are very well deployed. The bottom end of the track has weight, but is not artificially deep or boomy. Voices have a warm, natural quality, plus the film’s dialogue is always completely understandable. English, French Spanish, German and Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as, as well as the supplemental materials. A running Audio Commentary has been assembled from various sources and features comments from film critic/historian Andrew Sarris, author James Ellroy, actors Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, David Strathairn, Kim Basinger & Danny DeVito, plus costume designer Ruth Myers, screenwriter Brian Helgeland, production designer Jeannine Oppewall and cinematographer Dante Spinotti. A Music Only Track featuring Jerry Goldsmith’s wonderful score is provided for fans.

Documentaries and Featurettes include: Whatever You Desire: Making L.A. Confidential (thirty minute interview based retrospective), Sunlight And Shadow: The Visual Style Of L.A. Confidential (twenty minutes on Dante Spinotti’s cinematography), A True Ensemble: The Cast Of L.A. Confidential (twenty five minutes more cast & crew interviews), L.A. Confidential: From Book To Screen (twenty minutes on the necessities of cinematic adaptation), Off The Record (nineteen minutes of vintage interviews) and Photo Pitch (eight minutes covering the director’s personal vision for the film). Other supplements include The L.A. Of L.A. Confidential (interactive map tour of the films locations), L.A. Confidential TV Series Pilot (episode length pilot not picked up by the networks), several TV Spots and a Theatrical Trailer. The Blu-ray release of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL also comes with a CD Soundtrack Sampler on a second disc.

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL is a superb motions picture that only seems to get better each time I watch it. The Blu-ray presentation is truly excellent. L.A. CONFIDENTIAL gets our highest recommendation.



L.A. Confidential [Blu-ray] (1997)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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