The 1997 movie L.A. Confidential remains an absolute classic. The neo-noir masterpiece directed, produced and co-written by Curtis Hanson, was written in tandem with the legendary screenwriter Brian Helgeland and based upon crime writer James Ellroy’s 1990 novel of the same name.
The screenplay tells the story of a group of LAPD officers in 1953 as they attempt to uncover a web of police corruption that finds itself interwoven with Hollywood celebrity. The title is a direct reference to the notorious scandal magazine of the day, Confidential, which is portrayed in the film as gossip peddlers Hush-Hush.
A brilliant homage to an era where the dream of Hollywood was starting to be undone by greed, corruption and other vices, it remains one of the must-see movies in the neo-noir genre, and in terms of a script that pulls you in and fully immerses you, it doesn’t get much better.
The casting, it has to be said, is also one of the film’s most enduring facets. In many ways, it was the film that broke Guy Pearce and Russel Crowe into the mainstream, and they were aided by Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, James Cromwell and, dare we say it, Kevin Spacey.
Of the latter, this was the period in which Spacey was one of the hottest names in Hollywood. 1995 saw the actor star in both The Usual Suspects and Se7en, so by 1997, you can imagine what kind of fame he enjoyed. In a strange way, on retrospective viewing, Spacey’s depraved nature as an individual gives the corruption of his character Jack Vincennes a natural essence – a rare thing to witness in cinema.
Regardless of the blight one of its leading actors leaves on the film, you cannot deny its quality as a whole package. The interesting thing was, by the end of the movie, even though the majority of the characters are morally reprehensible in one way or another, you’re left caring for them. This showed just how great Hanson and Helgeland’s script was, staying reasonably faithful to the book. Ellroy himself even said: “I understood in 40 minutes or so that it is a work of art on its own level. It was amazing to see the physical incarnation of the characters”.
The connection felt to the characters by the film’s close led to many calls for a sequel, as after all, L.A. Confidential, the book, was the third entry in Ellroy’s ‘L.A. Quartet’ so there was definitely plenty of scope for it. In his fourth novel, White Jazz, the author even ties up the arc of characters such as Edmund Exley and Dudley Smith, which makes you wonder why a sequel for the highly successful film has never been made.
To many fans’ delight, there was recently a sequel in the works. In an October 2020 interview with The Ringer, Helgeland confirmed that a follow-up had been in development before the death of the iconic Chadwick Boseman, who was signed on to play “this young cop named James Muncie”. Pearce and Crowe were also signed on to reprise their roles, and it would have been set some 21 years later in 1974. However, before Boseman’s death, Warner Bros axed the project for reasons that are unknown.
The thought of Chadwick Boseman starring alongside our two favourite 1950s cops is an incredible one, and it makes the tragedy of his premature passing just that little bit harder to swallow. Nevertheless, we can always hope that Helgeland will one day bring the characters back to life.
Watch the trailer for L.A. Confidential below.