Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

L.A. Confidential (1997)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

L.A. Confidential (1997)

In director Curtis Hanson's great neo-noir police-crime drama of the early 50s derived from James Ellroy's 1990 novel, about the approaches of three LA cops in the pursuit of justice following a bloody shoot-out in a downtown LA Coffee Shop:

  • the sequence of the so-called 'Bloody Christmas' incident occuring in LA - the severe beating of imprisoned civilians (including a number of Hispanics) by members of the LAPD on Christmas Day, 1951 -- witnessed by young, clean-cut, straight-arrow, college-educated, neophyte patrolman cop Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) (who protested against the brutalizing actions of officer Dick Stensland (Graham Beckel) and violent, tough cop Wendell 'Bud' White (Russell Crowe)): ("Stop officer, that's an order"); and the next day's LA Times headlines: BLOODY CHRISTMAS: Police Assault Prisoners in Jailhouse Melee," and Exley's subsequent testimony in the case to advance in the ranks, while Stensland was fired
  • the bloody multiple homicide scene at the Nite Owl Coffee shop where six murdered victims were discovered - with the evidence eventually pointing to the corrupt LAPD and its police chief as the perpetrators of a major cover-up in their attempt to seize control of the lucrative drug trade in the city
  • the scene in which gossip-mongering, suave, celebrity "Hollywood" narcotics detective and technical advisor for the TV police drama series Badge of Honor Sgt. Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) made a deal with Lieut. Exley and promised: ("You help me with mine, I'll help you with yours - deal?")
  • the character of the sleazy tabloid Hush Hush magazine editor-publisher Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito), in cahoots with Sgt. Vincennes who was provided kickbacks in exchange for being informed about celebrity-related arrests
  • the Veronica Lake look-alike - high-class hooker Lynn Bracken (Oscar-winning Kim Basinger) pimped by the leader of a pornography business and Fleur-de-Lis call-girl ring, millionaire Pierce Morehouse Patchett (David Strathairn) - specializing in movie-star look-alike prostitutes (after plastic surgery), who became attractive to White: (White: "Patchett's running whores cut to look like movie stars"); and their conversation: (Bracken: "You're different, Officer White. You're the first man in five years who didn't tell me l look like Veronica Lake inside of a minute." White: "You look better than Veronica Lake"); shortly later, she claimed that she hadn't been 'cut': ("l'm really a brunette, but the rest is me. And that's all the news that's fit to print")
  • the interrogation scene when tough, frustrated cop Bud White (who hated woman-beaters and injustice) burst in on Ed's questioning of three black suspects, possibly involved in the Nite Owl murders, about the whereabouts of a kidnapped female victim: ("Son, six people are dead, and someone has to pay for it. Now, it can be you, or it can be Ray...Son, you know what's gonna happen to you if you don't talk. You'll go to the gas chamber. So for God's sake, admit what you did...These people are all in the morgue. They were dead when you left them...Louis, who's the girl, what's her name?...Was she at the Nite Owl?...Now, listen to me. lf that girl is still alive, she's the only chance you've got....Where is she now?"); White pulled out his gun, emptied it of all but one bullet, and then stuck the gun in one black suspect's mouth while pulling the trigger and threatening: "One in six, where's the girl?"
Tough Cop Wendell 'Bud' White (Russell Crowe)
Interrogation of Nite Owl Suspects at Gunpoint
  • the scandalous scheme devised by Sid Hudgens to set up actor Matt Reynolds (Simon Baker) in a homosexual tryst with LA's District Attorney Ellis Loew (Ron Rifkin), resulting ultimately in the death of Reynolds
  • the scenes of the rescue of the kidnapped and abused female victim, and the bloody takedown-raid on the entire gang suspected of committing the Nite Owl murders, noted by Exley's blood-splattered face and his new nickname: "Shotgun Ed"
  • the scene when the cops mistook the real Lana Turner for high-priced prostitute Lynn Bracken, and she threw her drink in Exley's face: (Vincennes: "She is Lana Turner")
  • the stunning scene when corrupt and diabolical veteran cop and LAPD police chief Capt. Dudley Smith (James Cromwell) shockingly and unexpectedly shot in the chest and killed Sgt. Jack Vincennes in the Captain's own kitchen for knowing too much; as Vincennes slumped to the floor, he spoke the words 'Rollo Tomasi' - identifying Dudley as the mastermind
The Point-Blank Murder of Sgt. Vincennes by LAPD Capt. Smith:
Sgt. Vincennes' Last Words: "Rollo Tomasi"
  • afterwards, the scene at the Victory Motel of Sgt. Exley confronting Capt. Smith about the meaning of the term 'Rollo Tomasi', knowing that the Police Chief was a corrupt mastermind crime boss: ("You're the guy who gets away with it. Jack knew it. So do I"); Exley had made up the name after his legendary cop-father was shot and killed by a purse-snatcher in the line of duty; the metaphoric term denoted the corrupt police chief as the perfect example of a criminal who was able to escape punishment and literally get away with murder
  • the scene of Exley's murder of Capt. Smith in the back as he walked away from the Victory Motel, with his hands in the air
  • afterwards, Exley confessed to superiors that the Nite Owl Coffee Shop's multiple (six) murders were most likely conducted by LAPD officers Michael Breuning and William Carlisle, and a third individual, presumably Capt. Smith; the corrupt Smith's motivation was to take over the city's rackets and heroin drug trade (run by Mickey Cohen (Paul Guilfoyle))
  • in the subsequent cover-up, Smith was remembered dying as a "hero," and a compromised, opportunistic Exley was awarded a Medal of Valor - to avoid controversy, and to prevent a stain on the reputation of the LAPD. At the ceremony, Exley was lauded: ("With leaders like Lieut. Edmund Exley, the image of fat cops stealing apples will be left behind, and Los Angeles will finally have the police force it deserves")
Exley Awarded Medal of Valor
Lynn Bracken's Goodbye Words to Exley
  • the concluding scene - the departure of seriously-injured but surviving Officer White (sitting mute in the back seat) departed with Lynn Bracken, on her way home to Arizona after quitting the high-class whore business. As Lynn departed and kissed Exley, she told him (in the film's last line): ("Some men get the world. Others get ex-hookers and a trip to Arizona. Bye")

Ed Exley: "Stop officer"

"Bloody Christmas" Headlines in 1951

Nite Owl Coffee Shop: Multiple Homicides

Hush Hush Magazine Editor-publisher Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito)

Hooker Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger)

Rescue of Kidnapped Abused Female

Take-Down of Gang

The 'Real' Lana Turner Mistaken for Lynn Bracken

LAPD Capt. Smith (James Cromwell) Shooting Officer White (Russell Crowe)

Exley's Murder of Capt. Smith

Exley's Accounting of the Corrupt LAPD


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