Russell Crowe plays Detective Bud White, a tough L.A. cop who bends the rules in order to bring justice to the city. He is ruthless, and unforgiving of anyone, which brings him into direct conflict with Detective Lieutenant Ed Exley, played by Guy Pearce. Russell Crowe became with this role a full pledged character actor,: the cop with a steel physique, and a vulnerable heart. He becomes so believable and real to the audience, you can not help but sympathize for his character under the circumstances. From this role, Crowe went on to garner three best actor nominations, winning for his role in Gladiator.
Guy Pearce, the little known Australian body builder, became the character known as Ed Exley, a straight, uptight detective trying to live up to the legend his father created before him. Exley has so much to prove to the LAPD, trying to show them that he is just as good, maybe even better, than his father. He plays the politics in a corrupted police department very well, and is able to use these skills in solving the corrupt and mysterious case of the Night Owl murders. This film officially put Guy Pearce in the big leagues of film, making his next appearances in Memento and The Count of Monte Cristo. He is a severely underrated actor who deserves better than what he has been getting.
Finally, the ever wonderful Kevin Spacey. Spacey plays Lieutenant Jack Vincenes, a cop who gives a popular LA police show, Badge of Honor, real solved cases in return for money. Jack sees his life as an ever going soap opera, until he comes across a case that somehow has a connection to the Night Owl murders. Kevin Spacey has proved time and again his abilities as an actor, and he continues with this performance.
Curtis Hansen does a wonderful job bringing this story to the big screen. His talents, although recognized, have not been awarded as of yet. I can only hope that someday, someone will give this amazing director something worthy of his talents.