This film is about three cops in 1950's L.A. and a mysterious murder investigation that brings them together. When Bud White's (Russell Crowe) partner is killed at the Night Owl diner along with a bunch of other people, it appears to be a typical robbery, but as White, up-and-coming young cop Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) and limelight-seeker Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) begin to investigate the crime separately, they each see serious weaknesses in the case against a couple of black prime suspects. Naturally, their paths soon cross, creating the kind of serendipitous warmth one usually associates with Taster's Choice commercials.
Despite his unseemly portrait of L.A., this is essentially director Curtis Hanson's gift of a nice, big geographic blowjob for all his Hollywood buddies. Every film in the universe is set in Los Angeles or about Los Angeles or reflects a Los Angeles sensibility. If L.A. fell into the ocean tomorrow I would give more thought to my daily bowel movement -- this is how much I care about Los Angeles. It's like somebody jammed the door to a freak show wide open and we're all being forced to watch. I don't care how critical the camera's eye purports to be -- Hollywood is incapable of setting a film in L.A. where someone doesn't run off with the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold in the end.
Naturally this film leans heavily on everything that is supposed to give Los Angeles that "edge." (Imagine a used car salesman making little quotation marks in the air with his fingers as he tries to sell you a convertible Corvair because it will give you that "edge.") There are hookers who look like movie stars (White gets involved with one who looks like Kim Basinger). Vincennes serves as a liaison to a cop television show. There's even the scuzzy gossip-mongering journalist, Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito).
Who's really behind the whole thing? Naturally, it's the very guy you'd least suspect, which, if you're learned in the ways of Hollywood's recent romance with "edgy" neonoir films, renders the film ironically -- and utterly -- predictable.
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