This film is about the adventures of a 1940's special anti-gangster police squad in Los Angeles, the infamous 'Hat Squad.' The four members of this squad are big, tough, no-nonsense cops who don't hesitate to break the law, if it suits their purposes. When a local woman is murdered, their investigation turns up the fact that she had been romantically linked to several prominent men and had secret films taken of her liaisons. Since one of those men is the powerful U.S. Army General at the head of the then-new Atomic Energy Commission and another is the (married) leader of the Hat Squad, complications ensue. The FBI even gets involved in an attempted cover-up. Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
Looking at the four stern faces of the suited men on the cover, you'd think this was yet another movie about gangsters. But it isn't. Fans of another fantastic period cop drama, L.A. Confidential, should enjoy this film, as they are quite similar in theme. Like Russle Crowe's hard-edged cop character in L.A. Confidential, the four cops in this movie, do what they must to dispense justice. Despite their violent methods, they are nonetheless vigilante about justice.
Unorthodox and often unethical Los Angeles cops, Max Hoover (Nick Notle), Elleroy Coolige (Chaz Palminteri), Eddie Hall (Mike Madsen), and Arthur Relyea (Chris Penn), do what they can from keeping the trash from moving into the city. Tossing gangsters down Mullholland Falls, the symbolic dumping site for the exiled criminals, and tearing up coke dealers and pimps with a handy black jack, these cops don't take crap. (It should be interesting enough at this point to see both Penn and Madsen not playing their usual roles as sadistic gangsters).
The four cops are preoccupied with a new investigation after Max's former lover, Allison Pond (Jennifer Connelly), is discovered dead in a development yard. The case tests Max's limits on the ability to sift out the suspects and overcome whatever obstacles stand in his way of justice. At first, it seems as though this is just another story in which the villain turns out to be zealous leaders of the mafia who go to all ends to get what they wants (usually a profit venture). But that is not the case here. Max and the gang find themselves going up against the government and military, implicating Atomic Energy Commissioner (John Malkovich) and an eager Colonel (Treat Williams), to find out what is what that Allison was involved with that lead to her death. The movie takes place during the 1940s around New Mexico's White Plains nuclear testing site, and makes some challenges to the ethics of nuclear testing.
This movie has a tremendous cast, even in minor roles. Nick Nolte does a fantastic job, as does John Malckovich in the role of the dreamy, dying Atomic Energy Commissioner.
I also compare this film to L.A. Confidential because it seemed like some of the settings (and even the arrangement of scenes) are very similar to those used in the former. For example, Max Hoover's house (especially the living room and bedroom) looked almost identical to the one where Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito break into the house in the beginning to bust up a minor "pot party." The bedroom looked much like that one for Kim Basinger's house as well. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the same people involved in Mullholland Falls likewise worked on L.A. Confidential.
It isn't your traditional cop drama/political thriller because of the nature of the main characters. They don't always play by the rules, but in the end, they are the good guys. And, it's got a good finale.
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