L.A. Confidential (1997)
Description of the film
L.A Confidential is an American film that was produced by Curtis Hanson. It is based on a 1990 book written by James Ellroy with the same title. The movie is about a group of Los Angeles Police Department officers and the correlation between police corruption and prominent celebrities in 1958.
The film revolves around police officers who are of different characters. Exley is determined to follow the rules and regulations as his desire is to live up to the legacy of his late father. White on the contrast is a violent officer who uses forces unnecessarily in the execution of his duty. Vincennes is a narcotic detective who lacks professional ethics. Vincennes sets up two celebs to illuminate a scandal for the increased sale of a popular magazine. The Captain of the police department Smith is a crooked officer. Smith and other officers dislike Exley for his actions of testifying against a fellow officer in the Bloody Christmas case (Confidential, L. A). Three African Americans are killed in a shootout after they are charged with a murder case. White and Smith speculate of corruption involvements in the case and embark on an investigation. Later when Vincennes provides Smith with evidence that Exley had gained, Smith kills him since he wants to be termed as the hero of the case (Confidential, L. A). Smith ignites a fight between White and Exley to cover up his evil deeds. Later he sets them up with a group of hit men and then shoots White. Exley kills Smith by shooting him in the back. The LAPD decide to cover up crimes of Smith by claiming that he died in a fierce shootout. Exley claims for his recognition as a hero in the case where he receives a medal for his dedication and bravery (Confidential, L. A). the movie ends with Exley and White shaking hands revealing that he survived the shootout.
How L.A. Confidential portrays city life and urbanism
L.A Confidential is a typical noir film which reflects on city life crime dramas. Most noir films are characterized by themes of corruption and deceit which are dominating in the movie (Ebert). The film portrays city life as one which is full of crime, violence and many forms of immorality. The society in the movie setting is portrayed to be corrupted with all sort of crimes. In this, film several social problems facing the city are brought out. Los Angeles is full of social crimes which include prostitution, pornography, drug use, racism, police brutality, gun play, betrayal, secret alliances and others. The entire film is characterized by series of criminal activities which thrive in the city. Despite the city having a police department to curb crimes, criminal activities become the everyday business. Police officers who are meant to curb crimes are also involved in some of the criminal activities. Some dominant criminal activities include the Nite Owl murder, the Bloody Christmas murder, assassination of a celeb and the killing of Smith and the hit men. Prostitution is one the dominant urban life issue that is evident in the film. Prostitution business is on the boom, and there are several joints where it thrives. For instance, White visits one of the sex workers who is a friend to a girl that was killed at the Nite Owl murder while investing the case of the crime. White is attracted to the girl and on his second visit, they fall into bad even without having a conversation. The incidence shows how the immorality of prostitution is on the rise in the city. Further, the girl who died at the Nite Owl gives a real connection between crime and prostitution. Another vice in the city which is closely related to prostitution is pornography. Porn business thrives in the city despite the police having a perfect of knowledge of it. The urban society is thus portrayed as one which is tolerant to sexual immoralities. Homosexuality is yet another sexual immorality present in the city. For instance, Vincennes set up two celebrities who he claims to engage in homosexuality. One of the suspects is later killed for these charges. Gunplay is another urban issue present in the film. Throughout the movie, there are incidences of violent gunplay that end up claiming lives of people. The first incidence of gun play is when Exley testifies against a fellow officer who shot a suspect. Besides this case, three African American lose their lives in a shootout after they were charged for with murder. The issue is also evident in the shooting that killed Smith and hit men at the end of the film. The dominance of these incidents shows that gun play was part of everyday life in the city.
Like in most urban life, racial discrimination is present in the movie. Two incidents show racism is in play in Los Angeles. The first case is when the drunken cops brutally attack Mexican suspects. On top of it, they get their photos on the front page which is very immoral. In another incident, three African American are accused of committing the Nite Owl murders. They are charged but later meet their deaths in a shoot-out. These scenarios show a lack of tolerance for diversity which is a problem in major cities.
The main message about the Los Angeles city in the film is that it was built on corruption and immorality. Justice was never severed to the people as those who were tasked with law enforcement were keen on bending the law for their selfish motives. Corruption was rampant in the police department of the city. Together with other crimes that are present in the film, the image of the city is tarnished.
The soundtrack in a film is important in portraying its central theme. In LA Confidential, a slow type of music is used in many scenes to portray the sentimentality of them. Most of the scenes where slow music is used are where the theme of crime and deceits in the city are portrayed. The slow music is used to create a trait of depression which dominates the film owing to the violence and crimes in the city. Unlike in many movies where sounds of people walking in busy streets, such sounds are absent in the movie (Ebert). The producer wants to add the feeling of loneliness which portrays the image of the Los Angeles city.
A gloomy tone is used in the film to reflect the bad image of the city. The use of dark dialogue in the entire film creates this tone. In most of the conversation, harsh and sad tones are used to present the numerous problems that are present in the city. Incidents, where people are engaging in happy conversation, are limited to bring out the chaotic and stressful life experienced in the city. On the other hand, a sad mood is used to create a negative image of the city. The presence of many incidences of violence and deaths creates a sad mood. For instance, the illumination of the Bloody Christmas murder and the Nite Owl murders. Further, assassination and killings in the shutouts build on this mood (Ebert).
Lighting is another imperative aspect of the film that is used to create the image of the city. In the film, one or two lights are used in the making of the film. The rationale of this is creating dim and low-key shots in some scenes which portray the negative image of the city. The lighting used help in creating a sense of disorientation which is the nature of the city in the entire film. Most scenes in the movie are occurring in nighttime. Nighttime creates a mystery that comes with darkness. In the film, nighttime images are used to portray the anxiety that is present in the city. Further, these images expand the mystery of the plot throughout the film.
The setting of the film plays an imperative role in creating the negative image of the city. The setting of the movie is in the 1950's when several crimes that are presented in the movie were in play. In this period, crimes and violence remained hidden in the shadow with police officers playing a part in these vices (Ebert). At this era, law enforcement agencies had power over the media which they used to cover up their crimes. In this era, celebrities who were rising are portrayed as scandalous. All these aspects of the settings together create the bad image of Los Angeles City.
Confidential, L. A. "directed by Curtis Hanson." USA, Warner Bros (1997).
Ebert, Roger. "L.A. Confidential Movie Review (1997)". Rogerebert.com. N.P., 2008. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.