L.A. Confidential ★★★★★

A bloody mess due to police corruption in 1950s' Los Angeles is handled expertly by director Curtis Hanson: both the ideal and the immoral, the gritty side and the Hollywood lights of lore unite to create a compelling picture that is neo-noir at its tightly exhuberant best.

Based on James Ellroy's novel, it tells a grand epic but never loses its focus on the psychological motivations of its deeply faulty antiheroes, brilliantly played by Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe and Kevin Spacey. The Oscar went to Kim Basinger as a Veronica Lake-lookalike hooker who neither resembles nor sounds like Veronica Lake, although her acting is decent. The score by Jerry Goldsmith very much recalls that of Leonard Bernstein for On the Waterfront, and his own work for Chinatown; better is the cinematography by Dante Spinotti, full of the dreams and shadows not only of the genre, but also of the human condition.

As with Pulp Fiction (1994), L.A. Confidential was inspired by the narrative scope of GoodFellas (1990) --and this, of course, doesn't prevent it from remaining one of the most memorable productions of its era: a 1990s Hollywood movie that, in acknowledging the evil darkness behind the Tinseltown sign, has become a virtual classic on its own. (Proof that there is such a thing as a great Ellroy adaptation on the big screen, unlike De Palma's kitschy The Black Dahlia, and even the well-directed Street Kings.)