But Hanson understands in his bones what draws us to this netherworld: We want to know where the bodies are buried. In one particularly startling sequence we actually find out: White crawls under a house and pulls up a rotting corpse. It's as if in this scene White becomes the Ulysses of noir. He's reached the rot that noir tries to slick up and glamorize.
The three lead cops in L.A. Confidential react to depravity; they have a conscience. Hanson wants to give us a richer sense of character than the standard noirs, and by the end his cops have earned their chops. The blood on Exley's face no longer looks decorative and out of place, as it did in the beginning. It looks like it belongs there -- it's a part of his story. L.A. Confidential is about a war within the police ranks, and it's also a film at war with itself. Hanson craves the lurid shock of pulp, but he also wants to go beyond pulp. With his smarts and his almost tragic sense of the consequences of vice, he just about gets there.
Written by Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson; directed by Curtis Hanson; with Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, James Cromwell, David Strathairn, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, and Kevin Spacey.