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L.A. Confidential

L.A. Confidential is a 1990 crime novel by James Ellroy that was turned into a 1997 film which tells the story of Los Angeles police in the 1950s, and police corruption bumping up against Hollywood celebrity. more...

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The film adaptation stars Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, David Strathairn, and Ron Rifkin. Ellroy's novel is in paperback under ISBN 0446674249. It is the third entry in Ellroy's "LA Quartet" series of noir novels.

Story

The story is about three cops who are caught up in a mixture of lies, sex and murder following a mass murder at the Nite Owl coffee shop. The story spans more than seven years and eventually stretches to encompass organized crime, political corruption, heroin, pornography, prostitution, tabloid journalism, plastic surgery and Hollywood. The novel's title refers to the infamous 1950s scandal magazine Confidential, portrayed fictionally therein as Hush-Hush.

Edmund Exley, the son of a legendary LAPD cop, is a brilliant detective determined to outdo his father . Ed's intelligence, his education, his glasses, his insistence on following regulations (including resisting corruption), and his cold demeanor all contribute to Ed's "not one of the boys" status among the rest of the Department, and the resentment is fed when he testifies against other cops in a police-brutality case (a fictional version of the Bloody Christmas incident) early in the novel.

Wendell "Bud" White, the most feared man in the LAPD, is a six-foot tall muscleman of a cop. His partner was convicted and imprisoned in the "Bloody Christmas" scandal by Exley's testimony, and Bud vows revenge. He has a violent obsession with men who abuse women, counterbalanced only by his tenderness towards the victims.

Jack Vincennes is a slick and likable Hollywood cop who moonlights as the technical advisor of Badge of Honor, a popular Dragnet-like television show. Behind his confident facade is a history of drug and alcohol abuse, and a dark secret that the Nite Owl investigation threatens to reveal.

Film

The movie was adapted by Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson from Ellroy's novel, and directed by Hanson. It won Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Kim Basinger) and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium; and was nominated for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Original Dramatic Score, Best Picture and Best Sound.

Changes from novel to film

Helgeland and Hanson were forced to make major changes to the plot to pare the story down to feature-length. Those sections notably missing or shortened are Bud's subplot involving a serial-killer who murders prostitutes, Ed's father, Inez Soto's subplot, the Dieterling/Disney subplot, and nearly all of Jack's back story, and his marriage. In Ed's back story, the role of his brother is replaced with an anecdote about his father, whose murder by an unknown criminal Ed dubbed "Rolo Tomasi" inspired his police career.

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