L.A. Confidential, Get Carter,
and Mean Streets: Do they hold up?
L.A. Confidential (1997), Get Carter (1971), and Mean Streets (1973).
L.A. Confidential, directed by Curtis Hanson and co-written with Brian Helgeland from James Ellroy’s classic novel possesses one of
the strongest plots of any crime movie. There are no dangling plotlines in either the book or the movie, unlike many of such works from the ‘40s and ‘50s. Amazingly, Hanson and Helgeland were able to cut out about two or three major plotlines from the book, including a bizarre one about a Walt Disney-type entertainment tycoon, without sacrificing Ellroy’s tone and worldview. The most significant difference is that the book ends with the young white knight sharing responsibilities for the future of the LAPD with the avuncular figure of evil that has significantly corrupted the force; the movie ends with the white knight on his own, but in charge. It’s more idealistic, but less pragmatic.
|The Superb Art Direction of LA in the early 50s|
|Russell Crowe and Kim Basinger|
Get Carter, which was directed by Mike Hodges and adapted by him from Ted Lewis’ Jack’s Return Home, is probably considered a minor classic here, though it’s a pretty
|Newcastle's Coal Mines|
There’s no Hollywood hope since producer Michael Klinger and Hodges intended this to be a contemporary Revenge tragedy that would fit in with the embers of the Swinging Sixties and the crime underworld, made famous by the Kray twins. Carter is a mob foot soldier, who returns to where he grew up in the north to investigate his brother’s death. He suspects it wasn’t an accident and his journey to prove that is the plotline for the movie.
|Dorothy White with Michael Caine|
Mean Streets made Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro stars. The title refers to Raymond Chandler’s essay “The Simple Art of Murder,” thereby placing its Neo-Noir ambitions squarely in the title. Scorsese reveals New York’s Little Italy, where he was raised, in an intimate and self-aware way that hadn’t been seen before, resulting in critical hype at the time. Looking at it
now, it’s amazing how much of it takes place in one set – a red-lit bar that one of the four friends owns. Whenever the characters got into a car and drove away (only about three times), I sighed with relief that they were out of an area that seemed inbred by its transplanted Sicilian mores, obsession with though not a reflection of the values of the Catholic Church, and over-reliance on Hollywood gangster clichés.
|The Red-lit Bar Set|
|Robert DeNiro in His Star-Making Role|
|The Pool Hall Scene|
DeNiro had his choice of playing one of the four friends and he shrewdly chose the star-making part, rather than the leading role. Just try taking your eyes off him as Johnny Boy, the dopey/volcanic best friend that also seems like a modern day trickster or devil doll. Harvey Keitel, a really good actor