[Movie Review] L.A. Confidential

L.A. ConfidentialStarring: Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger
Director: Curtis Hanson
Genre: Thriller
Cert: 18
Released: 1997

The problem with most “thinking” films these days is that they are too damn complicated; too many double crosses, too many suspects, too many twists…everything is just too difficult to observe and take in. Then “LA Confidential” (based on the book by James Ellroy) arrived and changed the rules.

Ed Exley (Pearce – “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”, TVs “Neighbours”) is new to the force but his philosophy is not one shared by the majority of his co-officers – play it by the book. When he grasses on officers involved in an attack on hispanic inmates, he gains promotion and resentment from his peers and several officers are cautioned or kicked off the force. What Exley also gets is the unwanted attention of hot-headed Bud White (Crowe – “Romper Stomper”, “Virtuosity”). His partner (Graham Beckel) was a fall guy in the whole affair and White is determined to make Exley pay for it. Then a mass murder in a downtown restaurant starts a chain reaction of events that involves all the various characters in one way or another. And what a diverse selection of characters that is…

Jack Vincennes (Spacey – “The Usual Suspects”, “Seven”, “Glengary Glen Ross”) is the star-struck detective who is the official consultant on a TV show based around the LAPD. Vincennes has a side-earner going with sleazy magazine editor, Sid Hudgeons (Danny DeVito – “Get Shorty”), whom he tips off before he busts a celebrity for solicitation so Hudgeons can be there to take pictures for his publication. Then there is Pierce Patchett (David Strathairn – “Sneakers”) who appears to be involved in arranging the call girls, one of which is Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger – “The Getaway”).

I could delve further into the plot but I don’t think my ISP gives me enough web space to do so. The performances of the cast are first rate and I would stick my neck out and expect the Australian duo of Guy Pearce and Rusell Crowe as well as femme-fatale, Kim Basinger, to be on the Oscar shortlist this year. Spacey is as assured as ever and is developing a screen presence that only the great actors seem to nurture. Interesting to see the farmer from “Babe”, James Cromwell (already Oscar nominated), take on the role as the LAPD Chief and was much amused to hear his hybrid Irish/South African accent.

Although the movie is undoubtedly complicated, it never loses you. There are few occasions where there is nothing happening on-screen that doesn’t keep you glued – although one particular storyline that did bore me slightly was the conversations between Crowe and Basinger. It is never contrived, rarely predictable and always original.

“LA Confidential” wil be a bookmark for future crime thrillers. Keep an eye on director, Curtis Hanson.



[Movie Review] Fever Pitch

Fever PitchStarring: Colin Firth, Ruth Gemmell
Director: David Evans
Genre: Comedy
Cert: 15
Released: 1997

Being a suffering Tottenham fan, the last thing I want to get entertainment from is one of the centuries most exciting football moments featuring my arch-rivals, Arsenal. This film is based on the book by Arsenal fan, Nick Hornby, which chronicled his reluctant love affair with the Gunners. The story starts in the late 60s when the moody youngster was dragged to Highbury by his father and ends with the last minute goal at Anfield which captured the 1989 league title.

While the book was essentially an autobiography, the film centres on characters suggested by the book and not actually on Hornby himself. Colin Firth is Paul, a die-hard Arsenal fan who finds that criticising his favourite team is the only way to ease the pain of defeat. Ruth Gemmell is Sarah, a tight, organised independent woman who can’t stand the sight of him. They both work at the local grammar school and despite being total opposites, fall for each other against all the odds.

Trouble starts to rear its head when Paul’s obsession with Arsenal starts to crowd Sarah out when she fails to understand his enthusiasm for 11 grown men. As a result, Paul has to choose which is more important to him, Arsenal winning the league or pursuing his love affair with Sarah.

‘Fever Pitch’ left me feeling mildly emotional I have to admit. I think it is actually a crime for a Spurs fan to feel that way while watching Arsenal winning the league so, you know, don’t tell anyone. The reason it is an emotional story is mainly down to the characterisations by Firth and Gemmell who are electric on screen. One can see it from two sides. Firth has spent 20 years going to Highbury and has waited 18 years for them to win the league – the arrival of a woman, no matter how much he loves her, is not going to deflect him from his passion. For Sarah, simple things in life should not be put on the back burner at the expense of a football match. Family and work should be the most important things to her, something Paul scoffs at.

‘Fever Pitch’ is lightweight and narrow in scope but still manages to be continually funny. Much of the praise for this as mentioned goes to the two leads and director, David Evans. Paul tries his damndest to explain his point of view and this is countered by Sarah who equally makes sense in her efforts. Arsenal aside, the story leaves you warm and amused.

‘Fever Pitch’ is a worthy movie and one of the most entertaining feel-good comedies since ‘City Slickers’.