MISSION VIEJO — In "L.A. Confidential," three Los Angeles cops stumble into a web of corruption and crime after they begin investigating murders at a coffee shop. Rated R.
Most teenagers have no trouble getting into "L.A. Confidential." The crime drama pulls them in with its soiled realism, propulsive energy and strong acting.
"It made you think you were there," said Jason Clark, 15, of Mission Viejo. "I really liked how the story [unfolded] and [the characters] came across."
Jason said he was intrigued from the start, when Officer Bud White (played by Russell Crowe) is shown intimidating a wife-beater during the Christmas season. White pounds on the man and tells him that he'll be back, to do much worse, if the guy doesn't change his ways.
Although the scene is intense, Jason said it set the right tempo for the rest of "L.A. Confidential."
"I knew right then that I'd like where it was going," Jason said. "I knew that they wouldn't be easy" and pull punches.
Such passages are standard in "L.A. Confidential," a movie that could make preteens, and possible early teens, uneasy. The film is graphic and volatile, but that didn't disturb Jason or his friend, Evan Walker, 15, also of Mission Viejo.
"You can see bloodier stuff in other movies, even some that are on TV," he said.
Evan, like Jason, said he was held from the beginning, in part because he wondered where the movie would go. Where it goes is down a serpentine path that often is hard to follow. Clue after clue is strewn about, and White and fellow cops Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) and Ed Exner (Guy Pearce) reveal just who they are.
We learn, slowly but surely, that the black men first arrested for six murders in the Nite Owl coffee shop may not have committed the crimes. Later, we see that other, more powerful men, including a high-class pimp, may have been involved.
Jason and Evan admitted that it can get more than a little confusing.
"I wasn't sure what was going on most of the time," Jason said.
Evan added: "Yeah, it was hard that way . . . but still good."
Tina Matto, 16, of Laguna Niguel said the movie's complexity was almost too much for her. Further, she was unnerved by Kim Basinger's character, a prostitute who works for a service that traffics in movie-star look-alikes. Some of the women, including a Rita Hayworth look-alike, undergo plastic surgery to complete the image.
"That made me sick," said Tina. "Doing that [prostitution] is sick [but] messing with how you look is really bad."
Still, Tina said she'd recommend "L.A. Confidential." "It was boring a few times, but I still thought it was cool."
Parent Perspective: Adults were unanimous on "L.A. Confidential" being a compelling picture. They were divided, however, on its suitability for young people. Most said only middle and older teenagers would be prepared for the adult subject matter and scenes.
"I wouldn't take anyone who was, like, 12," said Mark Silvers, a Laguna Beach father of three. "It was a good movie, but not an easy movie to take. . . . There was sex, blood and violence."
Marnie Smith, a Mission Viejo mother of an infant daughter, thought only mature teens could handle "L.A. Confidential," simply because the plot is so convoluted.
"I just don't think young ones will be able to follow it, they'd be lost," she said. "To tell the truth, I couldn't really follow it all the way."
* FAMILY FILMGOER, Page 20