(out of 5)
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.
Directed by Curtis Hanson
Cinematography by Dante Spinotti
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Production Design by Jeannine Oppewall
Costume Design by Ruth Myers
Film Editing by Peter Honess