Wednesday, October 25, 2017

L.A. Confidential (1997)

In the Star Trek universe, we have the Cardassian race.  In a Deep Space Nine episode, Garak and Bashir were talking about Cardassian Enigma tales.  Bashir’s main complaint was that all of the suspects were guilty of something.  Garak points out that the fun of the stories was to figure out who was guilty of what.  L.A. Confidential is a bit like that.  It seems that all of the main characters (and many of the suspects) are guilty of something.  If they haven’t done something yet, they will.

The movie is set in Los Angeles in the 1950s.  Ed Exley is a by-the-book sergeant who wants work his way up the ranks.  Captain Dudley Smith asks him if he’d be willing to bend the rules; since the answer is no, Ed probably won’t make it far as a detective.  Bud White is more of what Smith would consider a good officer.  He’s someone who is willing to beat the crap out of a suspect if it means that a guilty person goes to jail.  Then, there’s Sergeant Jack Vincennes, who’s not above taking some money.  He works with Sid Hudgens, who publishes a tabloid.  Vincennes also works as a consultant on a Dragnet-type show.  If money is changing hands, one of those hands probably belongs to Vincennes.

Early in the movie, several prisoners find themselves in a jailhouse fight with several police officers, including Vincennes and White.  Exley witnesses it, but is powerless to stop it.  Since Exley testifies, he’s given a promotion, but is not well liked by his fellow police officers.  Still, life goes on for White, Vincennes and Exley.

As detective lieutenant, Exley responds to a call involving several murders, including that of a former police officer.  This leads to finding three suspects who appear to be guilty of the crimes.  Exley is considered a hero for solving the crime.  He’s not convinced that this is all there is to it.  Vincennes agrees to help Exley look into it, which opens up a can of worms neither of them expected.

There’s that famous line, “It’s not what it looks like.”  In all of the television and movie that I’ve watched, this is probably the one time that the line was uttered where it was true.  The movie is complicated.  If you miss a detail, you may not understand the rest of the movie.  There are certain aspects of the movie that aren’t what you might assume.

Everyone likes to think that they’re a good guy and there are some good guys in all of this.  However, all of the main characters eventually do something that’s less than good.  That seems to be the distinguishing characteristic between the main characters.  Exley is the one that is most willing to follow the rules.  He does make a few mistakes, but he likes to think he tries.  The trick is figuring out what, exactly, everyone is guilty of.

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