"L.A. Confidential - Two-Disc Special Edition" DVD Review

October 01, 2008 by James Harvey

L.A. Confidential was one of the first movies I picked up when it was originally released onto DVD all those years ago. Released as a "Special Edition" with extras that would be considered paltry by today's standards, this turned out to be one of my favorite movies. The cinematography, the set design, all of it, ringed so true. On top of that, this movie also had a few star-making turned by Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe, to name a couple, that really drove this movie to an unforgettable finale. And now, years later, Warner Home Entertainment has released a killer DVD for L.A. Confidential, which I'll go into further detail about once we get synopsis done and over with.

L.A. Confidential is "tough, gorgeous and vastly entertaining" (James Maslin, The New York Times) and won 1997 Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress (Kim Basinger) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Brian Helgeland & Curtis Hanson). he evocative and sordid tale of Hollywood back in the day, about three cops, a call girl, a mysterious millionaire and a tabloid journalist, is rife with mystery, ambition, romance and humor. Friends become enemies, enemies become friends, and the deepest of secrets are revealed. Directed by Curtis Hanson, L.A. Confidential grabs you and never lets you go.

Information on the DVD is coming, but first, let's take a gander at the main feature, shall we? This is the film that superlatives were made for. It's incredibly easy, for myself and many other critics, to just gush about this film. To me, it's an excellent film from start to finish, completely enthralling and nearly hypnotic. This film does probably the smartest thing a period piece could do, which is stay relevant to the time it depicts. It doesn't feature current sensibilities super-imposed over a bygone era, but it sticks to what was factual to the time. The characters represent that, through and through and that, to me, is one of the major components that makes this movie work perfectly. It envelopes you in its time, making it so easy to believe that what you're seeing before you actually happened, warts and all. Like I said, it's a hypnotic story, a riveting one. If you like stories dripping with noir, well, here you go.

Now, this is a very complex movie with a lot going for it. There's countless storylines unfolding at the same time, all converging on an exciting gunfight. Now, I could attempt to go into detail, giving you a closer look at the movie itself, but I'm positive that my words would fail. There's so much going on that I'm sure my writing skills, if any, would crumble under the weight of the movie itself. The story is top-notch, without a doubt, offering a multi-layered tale that unravels delicately and precisely. Thankfully, the acting and the script match the story perfectly, coming together exquisitely.

This film starts off fast and never lets you go. Admittedly, there's a lot for the movie to get through, in terms of story-telling, and it doesn't waste a frame. But what the film does admirably is that it doesn't feel like anything is being rushed. While it's a very heavy story, nothing feels like its being sped through. It's moving at a brisk pace, but we get to soak it all in. As we discover more and more about the corruption at this L.A. police department, you can't help but get just sucked into what's going on more and more.

I feel the need to acknowledge the script again, particularly for it's brilliant dialogue. The dialogue just crafted to absolute perfection. It pops with that vintage dialogue sound, coming across as razor-sharp with a touch of bluntness. It can actually be shocking at times. But what L.A. Confidential is able to avoid the pitfall that comes with writing this vintage dialogue, dialogue that can sound the same for everyone who spouts it. Here, everyone sounds unique down to the core. Ever character has their own unique take on this dialogue that perfectly matches the scripted word. The standout has to be Crowe, who's intimidating character matches the rather blunt and threatening words that tumble forth from his mouth.

I know all of this is vague with very little information about the movie, but I went into this movie blind and, personally, I think that if you haven't seen this movie, the less you know about it, plot-wise, the better. It's just an expertly crafted film and one that deserves to be discovered all at once. You have betrayal, lies, a case which ties into a violent event from the past, a mysterious "homo-cide" (I know it sounds offensive, but, well, watch the movie), gun fights, fist fights, and just so much freakin' more! Plus you got some serious star-making turns here, whether it's Crowe as a thuggish cop or Basinger as a seductive beauty, it's just really great stuff here. Pearce, though, is the true stand-out here. His character goes through absolute hell and, well, no one could have done it better. Pearce just melts into his role and gives probably one of his definitive performances.

I could ramble on and on about L.A. Confidential, I really could, but, to those who haven't seen the movie, this is one to experience with as little knowledge to the plot as possible. It's a riveting little movie from start to finish, worth of all the accolades bestowed upon it when it first hit the big screen over ten years ago. The plot is solid, the script and dialogue is unique and top-notch, and the acting is superb beyond words, it really is. To me, this movie is a Must Own, without question. Everything about L.A. Confidential comes together perfectly, the cast and crew making one of the most unique movie-going experiences of the past couple of decades. A true noir flick in every sense of the word, L.A. Confidential is an enthralling and hypnotic film, guaranteed to hold you until the very last frame.

The DVD:

For those eager to check out the new L.A. Confidential DVD release, well, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has provided you with plenty to look at. Released both on two-disc DVD and Blu-ray, L.A. Confidential has never looked better. Naturally, the Blu-ray looks better than the DVD release, but the DVD release is nothing to sneeze at, either. Packaged in a very attractive Amaray case with a cardboard slipcover, L.A. Confidential has never looked better. And despite the "Two-Disc Special Edition" label on the cover, there's actually three discs, which I'll get into further down.

The new video transfer for the release looks great and, having owned the previous L.A. Confidential DVD release, I can vouch for the step-up in quality. There's a lot of slight improvements that add up to an overall great-looking disc. The audio is definitely a step-up, coming across as crystal clear. The loud sounds sound more boisterous and full, perfectly accenting the quieter scenes. Oddly enough, the DVD only has a 5.1 English audio track, odd considering how most releases are in at least three different languages. For those curious, the Blu-ray release of L.A. Confidential features an abundance of foreign-language audio tracks.

The new audio and video transfer is great, but that's not it for this release. Warner has packed this new release with an abundance of extras, something fans should be more than pleased with. First up on disc one is a commentary track with cast and crew, including just about every single actor or crew member involved in the movie (well, it seems that way). The audio commentary manages to be a very straight-forward and earnest affair, with very little back-patting. And, believe me, the entire main cast is here, plus over half a dozen more folks and it manages to stay coherent throughout. The first disc rounds out with a collection of trailers and a music-only 5.1 track. Good way to start things off.

Onto the second disc, we have a new 30-minute featurette called "Whatever You Desire: Making L.A. Confidential," chronicles the making of the film and is actually a very well put-together piece. Remarkably well done. After that is "Sunlight to Shadows: The Visual Style of L.A. Confidential," which, of course looks at the look and feel of the movie through set design and costumes. "A True Ensemble: The Cast of L.A. Confidential looks at one of the best ensemble casts of the '90s, including the use of then "no-name" actors Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce. A genuinely nice featurette. We then get a look at how the book L.A. Confidential was translated to the big screen in "From Book To Screen."

Now, the disc also ports some of the original featurettes from the original 1998 DVD release of L.A. Confidential. We get "Off The Record," a standard fluffy featurette, "Photo Pitch," looking at the photos Hanson used to pitch the movie, and "L.A. of L.A. Confidential, a featurette about the city the movie takes place in. The second disc wraps up with the L.A. Confidential TV pilot starring Keifer Sutherland. A solid, if flawed, effort that would have made for interesting television programming.

So, what's that third disc I mentioned earlier? Well, Warner has included a bonus CD with a collection of songs that are meant to represent the era of L.A. Confidential. A very cool bonus, I have to admit, and a welcome surprise for those who pick up the release.

To wrap up my thoughts on this release, whether you've seen L.A. Confidential or not, I'd list this movie as a Must Own. Warner Home Entertainment has done right with this release, giving us a top-notch release both in terms of the feature film and the presentation. The Blu-ray release of L.A. Confidential naturally included a high-definition transfer that also looks quite amazing. The bonus materials here are staggering and will definite eat up at least a couple hours of time, but, thankfully, the featurettes are in-depth, well-produced, and utterly fascinating. So, if you haven't seen this movie, I recommend searching it out. The low price-tag, for both the DVD and Blu-ray, should make this a very affordable purchase. In nearly every way, Warner Home Entertainment has finally given us the definitive version of L.A. Confidential, a utterly brilliant film that deserves a spot in every home video library.

L.A. Confidential is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.


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