LA Confidential (1997)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

In 1950s Los Angeles, Ed Exley, Bud White and Jack Vincennes are three police officers with drastically different lives. Exley, the son of a famous detective, is a no-nonsense, by-the-book politician, hoping to climb the LAPD’s ranks. White, a heavy drinker, is a violent, plainclothes officer with a pension for punishing wife beaters. And Vincennes; oh Vincennes. Vincennes is a celebrity cop, who acts as a consultant on a popular TV Show, and who makes extra cash by feeding tips to a gossip mag. These men have nothing in common, and would never even dream of working together. But when White’s partner, whom Exley had a hand in firing, winds up dead, and an item that Vincennes found on one of his raids is discovered at the crime scene, they wind up doing just that. And the more they dig, the more they realize how deep the conspiracy goes.

On paper, LA Confidential is the perfect movie for me. It’s a fast-paced thriller, with high production values, and a strong cast. It’s even a period piece. All my interest boxes are ticked. So why am I not crazy about it? Well, the simple answer is that every single aspect feels extremely familiar. All the main characters and plot points have been used before, in other, older noir films. In fact, if you took out the more explicit violence and language, and made it black and white, LA Confidential would be indistinguishable from those earlier movies. Now, as I’ve always said, there is nothing inherently wrong with a story being unoriginal. Every narrative in existence takes ideas from works that have proceeded it. But the best stories are the ones that are able to take those ideas, and make them their own. They change the setting, alter the tone, or break the rules by not giving you the ending you expect. Or, as in the case of movies like Deadpool and Their Finest, they openly acknowledge how cliched their narratives are, and so make fun of them. LA Confidential does none of those things. It is not parodying, drawing from, or even deconstructing the noir genre. It is just a noir film. It is a mystery, set in the 50s, in LA, involving corruption, murder, a flawed protagonist, or protagonists, in this case, and a femme fatale. That’s it. It doesn’t shock you with its ending, like Seven or Mother. It doesn’t have witty dialogue, like The Big Lebowski or The Nice Guys. It’s story, its cinematography, its score and its costumes are all very standard for the noir genre. And because everything about it is so familiar, you find yourself not caring as much.

Now before you get the wrong idea, I don’t think this is a bad film. The acting is superb, the costumes and sets are period accurate, and the tight pacing never allows for a dull moment. I whole-heartedly acknowledge that this is a competently crafted movie. But I’m also quite convinced that the reason it was so acclaimed when it first came out back in 97 was nostalgia. Critics who grew up with classic noir were most likely just happy to see something that reminded them of when they were young, and so declared the film to be better than it was. But, like I said, it’s not terrible. Just unoriginal. So if that doesn’t bother you, give it a look. You’ll probably like it.


The Nice Guys

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, ANd Views Are My Game.

The Nice Guys is one of those movies that, when you watch it, is easy to follow and makes sense, but when you actually try to describe it to other people, becomes convoluted and impossible to describe. Basically, it’s a noir film, with elements of comedy and action thrown in, which takes place in the 70s. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are two, down on their luck Private investigators, who come together on a case involving the death of a porn star, a big auto manufacturer, and a government official’s radical activist daughter. (Well, actually, Ryan Gosling is a private investigator. Russell Crowe is just a thug people hire to beat up guys who are bothering them). But that’s not important. What is important is the fact that they join forces, and embark on a funny, memorable adventure, with some great acting and good dialogue.

This movie really lets its two leads shine in their respective roles, with Gosling being the alcoholic comic relief, and Crowe being more of the tough straight man. Both characters are likable. Both are well-rounded. And the actors work well with each other. The girl who plays Gosling’s daughter is also really good. She’s funny, active, smart and just an all around engaging character. And like I said, the dialogue in this film is great. Now when I say that, I don’t mean it’s super witty and quick , like what you see in Tarantino and Sorkin scripts. Those writers never have their characters say “uh” or “um’,” get confused, back track, or trail off. There’s a constant back and forth of fully formed, cleverly-written sentences in their scripts. And I like that. But it’s not very realistic. In real life, people don’t always have perfectly prepared rebuttals for everything. They do back track. They do trail off midway through sentences when they realize that things don’t make sense. As such, real conversations don’t flow as smoothly. The dialogue in The Nice Guys is much less smooth and witty than in Tarantino scripts, and much closer to real life, with characters taking pauses, making mistakes and trailing off midway through sentences. A perfect example of this is a scene where Gosling and Crowe go into a bar, and shake down the bar tender for information. After Crowe smashes the dude in the face, he says, “now we can do this the easy way, or… we’re doing it the easy way right now.” That pause and reformulation of the sentence made what could have been a lame and predictable line into something clever and funny. The film is full of stuff like that, mistakes and seemingly random acts and occurrences, which work together to create a funny, memorable experience.

Yet,as much as I liked the picture, I did still have some problems with it. There’s a lot of voice over in this film, and I just never like to see that in movies. I understand that voice overs and internal monologues are staples of the noir genre, and that voice over can actually be funny and engaging, like in Adaptation and American Psycho. But here,I didn’t think it was necessary. Granted, this is more of a personal taste thing, and I recognize that other people might not have the same problem with it as me,but still. I also feel like Gosling’s character is a bit too much of an idiot and alcoholic in certain scenes, to the point where I don’t buy him being a successful detective. There’s a whole sequence where he and Crowe go to a party and investigate, and he gets totally shit faced. He’s so hammered that he can’t walk straight and literally stumbles across some evidence. No one that far gone could function as a successful PI. There’s also another thing that happens with him, and which the filmmakers were smart enough to poke fun at in the script, which just pushes the limit of believability too far. That is the fact that he gets shot, punched, dropped out of tall buildings and onto hard objects, and otherwise injured so many times that I can’t believe he’s not dead. If they’d made him a bit more competent, and didn’t throw him out of windows quite so often, I think the film would have been a bit more believable.

Still, I really enjoyed The Nice Guys, and would recommend it to you all. It’s more accessible than something like Arrival, and it’s less annoyingly desperate for an Oscar than something like Jackie or Loving. If you like well made, well acted genre fair with quick pacing and a sense of humor, this ones for you.