Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
USA, 1997. Regency Enterprises, The Wolper Organization, Warner Bros.. Screenplay by Brian Helgeland, Curtis Hanson, based on the novel by James Ellroy. Cinematography by Dante Spinotti. Produced by Curtis Hanson, Arnon Milchan, Michael G. Nathanson. Music by Jerry Goldsmith. Production Design by Jeannine Oppewall. Costume Design by Ruth Myers. Film Editing by Peter Honess. Academy Awards 1997. Boston Film Critics Awards 1997. Cannes Film Festival 1997. Golden Globe Awards 1997. Las Vegas Film Critics Awards 1997. National Board of Review Awards 1997. New York Film Critics Awards 1997. Toronto International Film Festival 1997.
Hands-down my favourite American film of the nineties. Curtis Hanson shocked the world by proving to be not only a great director but an auteur with this unbeatable adaptation of James Ellroy’s terrifying novel about corruption and crime among members of the LAPD in the 1950s. The hard-boiled detective story angle is brought to life beautifully, mostly because Jeannine Claudia Oppewall’s production design recreates the dark underside of the 50s to such perfection that not even a Coke bottle label is missed. Add to that Dante Spinotti’s stunning lighting that rides the fine line between artistic and believable comfortably (as all period camerawork should), Ruth Myers’ costume designing and a script by Hanson and Brian Helgeland that pares down Ellroy’s original mammoth plot without sacrificing the spiderweb-density of the story, and you have the best movie of 1997. The story, about a multiple murder in a local diner involving a policeman with suspicious ties makes for the most fascinating detective film made since Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil. The cast is all brilliant, most notably Kim Basinger as a wordly prostitute who has not only a heart of gold but a mind of steel–she is so strong in her character’s every nuance you’ll find yourself forgetting she’s even acting–and Kevin Spacey as a Dean Martin-esque detective who not only solves an important part of the puzzle, he even discovers he possesses a soul beneath his flashy suits.