L.A. Confidential is three character studies sewn together. The first character we follow is the belligerent LAPD cop Bud White (played by Russell Crowe). Bud works his cases with force and aggression, finding a punch to the gut a more effective weapon than any argument; however, deep down, he is gentle and human, albeit dangerously empty. Bud is contrasted by the upstanding, ‘do-it-by-the-book’ Edmund Exley (Guy Pearce). Exley is new to the LAPD but is keen to change its ethos of corruption and nepotism. He joined the force to follow in the footsteps of his father who was murdered, and whose killers were never found. Lastly, is Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey)—a narcotics detective who seems to spend more time working in the TV business or selling juicy stories to journalist Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito) than he does fighting crime.
When fellow cop Dick Stensland, as well as half a dozen others, are killed in the Night Owl coffee shop, all three cops try their hand at solving the case. As one might imagine, these three separate characters do not remain separate for very long. However, as the drama unfolds, the thrilling discoveries and shootouts are put to the side. The psychological turmoils of each character—like Bud’s entanglement with Lynn Bracken (played by Kim Basinger), Exley’s battle between his emotions and his morals, and Jack’s struggle with his own ego—emerge as the true centre of the movie. We see working habits and personalities clash in an incredibly entertaining and deeply immersive way. The script—which won Best Adapted Screenplay at the 1997 Academy Awards—depicts the music and manner of speech of the 1950s with such a riveting ease. Whether you’re looking for a film noir, a police drama, a character study, or a romantic thriller, L.A. Confidential will not disappoint. You can find it free on Amazon Prime (of which students can get 6 months free).