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February 27, 2018

Episode 355: L.A. Confidential (1997)

Special Guest: James Ellroy
Guest Co-Hosts: Richard Edwards, Eric Cohen

Eric Cohen and Richard Edwards return to take a ride in a convertible time machine, be-bopping back to the year 1997 to look at Curtis Hanson's L.A. Confidential. Starring more folks from down under than you can shake a boomerang at, this jazzy flick plays with many classic noir tropes while playing fast and loose with the third book of James Ellroy's first L.A. Quartet.

We examine how Hanson and co-writer masterfully condensed Ellroy's compelling and complicated story to craft a Neo-Noir that some rank among the best. The film features dazzling performances from "newcomers" Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce.

Listen/Download Now:

Buy L.A. Confidential on Blu-Ray
Buy L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy
Listen to the Out of the Past episode on The Black Dahlia
Read The Dark Places of James Ellroy by Mike White
Buy L.A. Confidential by Manohla Dargis

"Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive" - Johnny Mercer
"Bloody Christmas" - Jerry Goldsmith



  1. Enjoyed the bit about "Lose the glasses, Ed...". It got the gears turning, and it led to to see the film as a rhapsody on the theme of stoic vs. faith-based operating procedure. The glasses represent a stoic, empirical basis for running an enforcement operation. What happens when you take off the glasses? You operate on a faith-basis. And what does that look like in L.A. Confidential? It means that "good" officers *believe* a creed, and that system of belief "functions": It produces "leads", arrests, and convictions. BUT (per L.A.Conf) it *doesn't* produce justice, or even truly effective law enforcement. That's the key. Of course, the film goes on to show that a system based on operational beliefs is vulnerable to Dudley. One of your guests said that thing about Dudley's error being his underestimation of those officers. I go one further and say that he also failed to anticipate the ascent of a healthy, republican stoicism foiling his well-oiled belief-driven organization of compliant, drunk, racist cops.

  2. BTW, at some point, Exley, White and Vicennes all look disapprovingly at themselves in a mirror and mirrors are all over the place in the movie. It is a common motif in the film.

    Also, it was a production design choice for the lead characters NOT to wear hats, to make the characters more relatable to a modern audience. I think I also heard Hanson justify it somewhere that men in LA wore hats less than they did in the movies. LOL. But they did make sure background characters wore hats.