L.A. Confidential
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for L.A. Confidential can be found here.

Yes. It's based on L.A. Confidential, a 1990 novel by American crime writer James Ellroy. L.A. Confidential is actually the third book in a series of four books called The L.A. Quartet. They are The Black Dahlia (1987), The Big Nowhere (1988), L.A. Confidential (1990), and White Jazz (1992). The Black Dahlia was the basis of the movie, The Black Dahlia (2006), and White Jazz is in development, with a release date in 2012.

Yes, Exley (Guy Pearce) testified and Stensland was expelled from the force. That's why Stensland (Graham Beckel) knocked his box to the floor, why the other detectives sneered at him working late and groaned when he was put in charge of the interrogations. Their attitude toward him continues until he runs the interrogations of the Nite Owl suspects and proves to the veterans of the department that he's an effective police detective. He also gets a boost when he finds the three black suspects after they escape confinement and kills them all - for which the now-respectful department dubs him "Shotgun Ed."

Exley wanted to send White (Russell Crowe) down, but Captain Dudley Smith (James Cromwell) protected him at the cost of letting Stensland go. From then on, Dudley was able to coerce Bud into doing anything he wanted him to do.

It was police work. They escaped and he could be pretty sure they weren't stupid enough to go straight home, so he looked for possible hideouts. There's a brief scene where Exley talks to the police stenographer who took notes during the interrogation scene. She reads her notes & reveals that they'd previously gone to Roland Navarette's place for drugs, which is where Exley finds them. He had a 50/50 chance of finding them there and was lucky.

The original plan of having Bruning and Carlyle kill them at their apartment was foiled when Vincennes and Exley showed up to arrest them. The only explanation given for their escape is someone overheard saying "How did they jump out the window anyway?", implying they were left unsupervised in a place from which they could escape. The most likely answer is that Dudley, or one of his men, let them go so they could be hunted and killed while resisting arrest, to tie up loose ends. Later, in the records room, after Bud White confronts Exley with Sid's blackmail photo of Exley and Lynn Bracken, Exley deduces this, and experiences a wave of revulsion and guilt with the realization that Dudley set him up to be the negroes' executioner.

Susan Lefferts' body can be seen briefly when Exley opens the restroom door at the Nite Owl massacre, where a single shotgun wound to her chest is visible. This same wound is partly visible when the sheet is pulled back at the morgue, though hard to detect due to the viewing angle and presumable cleansing of the body.

Neither were in on the murders. The only ones in on it were the killers - Captain Dudley Smith, Det. Michael Breuning (Tomas Arana), and Det. William Carlyle (Michael McCleery).

Sid (Danny DeVito) was indeed in league with Smith and Patchett (David Strathairn). He photographs prominent politicians while they have sex with Patchett's prostitutes (like Lynn) to blackmail them later. He even does this with Exley (whether he did this with Bud White is not known but wouldn't be beyond him.) However, what Sid does not realize (as does Patchett ultimately) is that Dudley Smith basically sees everyone as disposable. As soon as they have served his purpose he's happy to get rid of them, and he certainly does not tell anyone all of his plans. Another good example of a character that does the same thing is Jimmy Conway in Goodfellas. When Jimmy & his army of cohorts pull off the Lufthansa Heist, he has them all killed so he doesn't have to pay them their shares AND so none of them can be found by the police & talk.

Sid introduces Matt Reynolds (Simon Baker) to Ellis Loew (Ron Rifkin) because he heard that Loew was bisexual (he calls Loew a "swish" a derogatory term for a gay person from the time period), and he wanted to either expose him as such in Hush-Hush or to blackmail him at a later point. Recall Sid and Patchett were involved in blackmailing celebrities, as evidenced by Jack Vincennes' statement to Dudley just before Vincennes was killed by the captain. Later at the hotel, Reynolds and Loew were surprised by Smith, who was there to strong-arm Loew into giving him help by covering up various things. Reynolds overheard, was spotted and killed, while Loew was allowed to leave alive. Listen closely to Loew's confession as Bud White is dangling Loew out of the office window. Smith most likely kept Loew alive because his corrupt nature and influence could be useful in the future and because he promised never to prosecute them for any crimes.

They had compromising photos of the DA with Matt Reynolds and were using them to blackmail Loew. The kid went to Loew to have sex with him, so Sid had blackmail material.

During his previous interrogation of the three negroes arrested in the Nite Owl killings, Exley showed his mastery of using the room's intercom system by flipping the switches under the table, so that they each could hear selective audio of themselves implicating each other. The intercom system also worked both ways, to and from the outside, as shown when the Police Chief asked Exley, "What was he was smiling at?" The D.A. and Chief started talking about the "Scandal", and a "Hero" after the other detectives left Exley alone in the room, where he could have easily just flipped the intercom switches with his foot to listen in. In short... Exley heard every word they said.

Exley was determined to root out the bad apples one by one and clean up the LAPD. If he had gone public, the police department would have closed ranks, dismissed him from the force, rubbished his claims as conspiracy theories or mud-slinging, and watched him disappear or even thrown him in jail. By staying quiet, he was able to advance further in the department and be in a position to fulfill this agenda, as evidenced by his last line, "They're using me, so for a little while I'm using them."

Remember that this film takes place from around December 1952 to sometime in Spring 1953, over a decade before the Miranda vs Arizona Supreme Court decision of 1966 that established the rights of anyone arrested and/or charged with a crime. You've likely seen other films where an officer says to a suspect "You have the right to remain silent..." & the right to an attorney & a phone call. Before they were set up to protect BOTH suspects & the police, officers were pretty much allowed to use any tactics they saw fit to get confessions, even false ones. Additionally, police misconduct (brutality) didn't become a major national issue until the Rodney King beating of 1991. There were many incidents of it, but the King incident pushed it to the forefront. So, you have scenes of blatant misconduct like Bud putting his gun in the mouth of one of the black men or Dudley Smith taking known gangsters to the Victory Motel where they were beaten and run out of town.

The movie is essentially a pared-down, cleaner version of the book.

The action of the book takes place from 1950 until 1958, with the initial heroin theft occurring in 1950, Bloody Christmas in 1951, the Nite Owl Massacre in 1953, and the ultimate revelation of the true motives behind the murders in 1958. In between, each of the main characters become involved in a number of subplots, several of which tie-in to the main action of the story.

Multiple dark, potentially off- putting elements were removed in adapting the book to the screen. Most notably, the Fleur-de-Lis pornography plays a much larger role in the book, and control over its distribution proves to be the ultimate motive behind the Nite Owl massacre. The pornography depicts not only "arty" sex scenes but also incest between a prostitute and her son, and most notably, a series of orgies which have been photo doctored so that the participants appear to have been dismembered.

Multiple subplots are also considerably darker than what ended up in the film: one involves a case that Ed's father worked in the 1940s involving a pedophile who kidnapped and murdered children in order to create a winged "Frankenstein" child using severed bird wings. Another involves Bud White trying to capture a serial killer who beats prostitutes to death and then engages in necrophiliac sex with their corpses.

In the novel, Ed and Jack are significantly darker than in the film: Ed Exley was a deserter during WWII, but was never caught because his entire squad died in combat and he claimed to be the sole survivor after being found. His father, Preston, is still alive and is a cop-turned-real estate mogul. It is under Preston's tutelage that Ed becomes a cruel, politically-minded police officer who only solves crimes for glory and because his father taught him the principal of "Absolute Justice," a zero-tolerance approach to law enforcement. There is no "Rollo Tomasi" story, and it is Ed's brother who was killed by a purse snatcher. Ed begins dating Inez Soto after the capture of the Night Owl Suspects, and she ultimately goes to work for his father and Raymond Dieterling, a Walt Disney pastiche whose dark past figures heavily in the novel's climax.

Jack Vincennes is a recovering drug addict who accidentally murdered a married couple during a stakeout because he was high and mistook them for criminals he was pursuing. Over the course of the book he becomes addicted to the violent pornography he is investigating and finds himself unable to fantasize about sex without it involving multiple women and severed body parts. The only hint of this side of Vincennes' personality might be seen in the scene where he pockets the small bag of marijuana that Matt and Tammy had.

The climax of the book are a pair of shootouts, one in a deli and one that occurs during a siege on a train transporting prisoners. Jack Vincennes is present for the latter and dies trying to help Ed and Bud prevent prisoners from escaping. The film's climactic shootout at the Victory Motel actually occurs in the book's prologue and ends with the death of Buzz Meeks; Dudley Smith actually survives the book and goes on to be the antagonist of the novel "White Jazz," which ends with Dudley being confined to a nursing home after he is attacked with an axe and rendered mentally retarded.

It was simple rumor and conjecture. As the story about the injured officers spread throughout the precinct, the story was exaggerated by everyone it passed through. Listen to the way Vincennes very dramatically says "I hear Helenowski lost 6 pints of blood and Brown's in a coma!" when the suspects are brought in. Moments later another detective tells a worse tale about one man losing an eye and the other being read his last rites. Add to that the fact that the men had been drinking heavily at the Christmas party and the scene quickly turned violent.

Page last updated by bj_kuehl, 5 months ago
Top 5 Contributors: bj_kuehl, briangcb, myturn21, There_Is_No_Sayid, JTGleason

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