Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I had the good fortune of seeing this film for the fourth time last night, and I remain with my opinion that this is one of the finest American movies of the last fifty years. If nothing else, director and co-writer Curtis Hanson has turned an dense James Ellroy novel (who's en-jambing attempts to make his fiction seem to the reader that they're actually in the mind of problematic crime fighters makes him unreadable)l into a riveting crime drama. In the midst of a defined by corruption, three cops of varied circumstances find their duty-bound moral centers.The performances of Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey and Guy Pearce are perfectly defined in their respective moments-of-clarity, those culminating incidents that make the jaded, cynical and brutish personalities find common cause in the murders they're trying to solve , and their resolution to discover and reveal the truth regardless of personal consequences, are nuanced and work wonderfully off of each other.There is not a hint of showboating, scene chewing, or mulled over mannerisms.

Dark, serious, peppered with a bitter wit, this film as well has a terrific look, from the editing , which is smooth and seamless , to the photography, which sustains the dark noir tradition while not slavishly trying to recreate the classic look of older films. The dark color scheme and the night lighting in this movie are gorgeous, a glorious thing to see in a macho drama where three hard headed alpha males breakthrough the confines of ego and pride and commit themselves to something bring their skewed universe into balance.

Best yet, Hanson does not attempt to make the resolution too pretty, too Hollywood typical; the carnage, killing and generation of misery that had to be gone in this quest for a simulacra of justice remains conspicuous : the racism , misogyny and homophobia that inhabit this world do not vanish, feelings between offended and offenders are not salved; Los Angeles in the late Fifties remains a corrupt cesspool, with just a hint of  any kind of spirit of reform. This drama is concise and precisely localized, a case of ethics conquering avarice in a single , particular string of incidents. The taste of cruel irony is barely concealed by the movie's end. There is not a false note anywhere.

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