L. A. Confidential

Special Edition

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Details At A Glance

Category Thriller Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 plus 3 TV spots
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1997 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 132 minutes Other Extras Featurette - "L.A. Confidential...Off The Record" (19 mins)
Featurette - "The Photo Pitch" (8 mins)
Featurette - "The L.A. of L.A. Confidential"
Featurette - "Soundtrack Promo" (1 min)
Production Notes
Cast & Crew Biographies
Isolated Music Score
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (82:44)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 4 Director Curtis Hanson

Warner Brothers
Starring Kevin Spacey
Russell Crowe
Guy Pearce
James Cromwell
David Strathairn
Kim Basinger
Danny DeVito
RRP $29.95 Music Jerry Goldsmith

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Italian (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Isolated Music Score (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1    
Macrovision Yes    
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired

Plot Synopsis

    I must be strange. Everyone I ever talk to about L.A. Confidential tells me that it is one of the best movies they have ever seen. Me, I didn't like it at the cinema, and I still don't like it after viewing it on DVD. My wife doesn't like it, either.

    L.A. Confidential is a police thriller set in Los Angeles in the 1950s. Land is cheap, food is plentiful, the sun is shining, but L.A. has a nasty underbelly of crime and abuse that this movie sets out to expose.

    It tells the story of three policemen, all quite different in their ways, and how they come to expose the corruption within their own ranks. Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) is a very straight cop who plays by the rules, unless bending them will advance his career. He is following in his father's footsteps. Bud White (Russell Crowe) is a thuggish cop. Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) is a stylish cop who has lost his soul.

    A brutal murder at the Night Owl coffee shop is the centerpiece of this thriller. What seemingly appears to be a straightforward robbery gone wrong gradually unravels to be a far more complex and sinister crime with far-reaching consequences. I won't reveal any more of the plot since it is designed to keep you guessing until the very end.

    The world of L.A. Confidential is filled out by a bunch of quite unpleasant characters; there's Dudley Smith (James Cromwell) the police chief, Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito) the gossip publisher who is not above paying to create his own gossip, Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger) the whore and Pierce Patchett (David Strathairn) the smut and whore merchant, intermixed with a host of seedy hoodlums and assorted other low lifes.

Transfer Quality

Technical Addendum 13th March 2000

    It has become apparent that this DVD suffers from a phenomenon known as DVD Rot. In essence, this appears to be some sort of reaction which affects the bonding between the layers on this DVD, resulting in the formation of tiny bubbles between the two layers. This can readily be seen if you hold this DVD up to a strong light source (data layer towards yourself) and carefully examine the outer areas of the DVD. You will notice some faint areas of discolouration/bubbling if your copy of this DVD has been affected by this problem. Note that you will not see anything if you look at this DVD in direct light, you must look at it via transmitted light. If your copy is affected by DVD Rot, it will be unplayable from around the point of the layer change onwards (82:44). Warner Home Video are currently looking into this problem, however, you should have no difficulty in convincing your retailer to replace your copy if you are thusly affected.


    The video transfer of this movie is reasonable, albeit with a few things to complain about.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer was very sharp at all times, except for the odd scene which was slightly blurred, mainly involving Lynne Bracken's apartment. A significant number of scenes appeared over-sharp, as if they had used excessive amounts of edge enhancement with this transfer. These appeared as scenes with extremely sharp foreground images surrounded by a halo set on a blurred and fuzzy background. I found these images to be quite distracting and hard on the eyes. The background on a number of scenes tended to be quite grainy and hard looking. Shadow detail was mostly superb, with the excessive edge enhancement distracting from the image somewhat. Some low level noise was present when excessive edge enhancement was being used.

    The colours were quite sedate and muted in this transfer, presumably by design, though I felt that a few scenes went the opposite way and were oversaturated, such as some scenes in Lynn Bracken's apartment.

    No specific MPEG artefacts were seen, though the excessive graininess of the background of the picture in some scenes may have been been related to MPEG compression. Film-to-video artefacts were virtually non-existent, with trivial aliasing present here and there. Film artefacts were excessively common for a contemporary transfer, with a number of scratches apparent throughout the transfer, alongst with a small amount of dirt.

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed at 82:44, which is between Chapters 25 and 26. Only a minimal audio and video pause are noticed with the transition. This is a very well placed layer change as it does not disrupt the on-screen action at all.


    There are four audio tracks to choose from on this DVD. The default is English Dolby Digital 5.1. This is the track that I listened to. The other tracks present are French and Italian soundtracks in Dolby Digital 5.1 and an Isolated Music Score also in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.

    Dialogue was clear pretty much all of the time, important for a movie such as this one. Some of the dialogue sounded sloppily edited together with odd breaks, as if the ADR hadn't quite been done correctly, but this was a trivial point. There certainly was no problem with the audio sync at all in this transfer.

    The music is a mix of period songs from the era and an original score by Jerry Goldsmith. Overall, this is a very nice sounding score with the music blended nicely with the action on-screen. The music is expansive, and spread throughout the sound field.

     The surround channels were moderately used for music, effects and some ambience. I felt that a little more could have been made of the surround experience, but overall this was a dialogue-based movie, and so the surround channels were not as important. Certainly, gunshots, especially in the end sequence were very effectively placed all around the sound field.

    The .1 channel was used for the music and for effects. It was moderately used.


    There are a very good helping of extras on this disc, all of high quality. The only thing lacking from this disc, and something which would have been marvellous to include, is a Director's commentary track.


    The menu design on the disc is excellent. It is designed as an issue of Hush-Hush magazine, with an animated main screen with musical score accompaniment. The menu is easy to navigate and intuitively set up so that when you are pressing through choices, the next choice comes up as default when you have finished with the previous section. This allows you to step through the extras sequentially. The entire layout of the menu system carries the same theme throughout, which is an excellent touch and adds significantly to the overall experience of this disc.

Theatrical Trailer

    The theatrical trailer is present on this disc, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Three TV spots are also present, presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - "L.A. Confidential...Off The Record"

    This is a 19 minute featurette featuring the director Curtis Hanson talking extensively about the making of the movie. It is very interesting, and well worth the time to watch. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 4:3 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Featurette - "The Photo Pitch"

    This is an 8 minute featurette also featuring the director Curtis Hanson talking about the photo pitch that he used to present the movie. This is an expansion of a topic briefly mentioned in the previous featurette, and is also very worthwhile. Once again, this is presented in an aspect ratio of 4:3 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Featurette - "The L.A. of 'L.A. Confidential'"

    This is a tour of the locations used in the filming of L.A. Confidential. It is presented as a map of Los Angeles from which you choose a specific location. You then get a 30 second snippet of the movie with voiceover talking about the chosen location. The menu sequences through all of the choices, so it is easy to navigate through the main screen. There are 15 locations in all that are covered.

Featurette - "Soundtrack Promo"

    As the name implies, this is a 1 minute promo for the soundtrack CD.

Production Notes

    Extensive production notes are present on this disc which are quite informative about the historical period that the movie covers and about some of the historical events around which the movie is based.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    Very extensive Cast & Crew Biographies round out the extras on this disc. I liked the fact that you could advance sequentially through all of these screens simply by pressing the Enter key rather than by having to select each cast or crew member separately.


    L.A. Confidential is a trip through the seamy side of Los Angeles and Hollywood. Many, many people liked it. I didn't.

    The video quality has a number of minor issues which detract from an otherwise very good transfer.

    The audio quality is good with clear dialogue and a reasonable surround presence.

    The extras are comprehensive and interesting, but lacking a Director's commentary.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna
29th December 1998
Addendum 13th March 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer