I picked up a used copy of Hollywood Confidential (1997) about six months
ago at a pawn shop. I came home one night after having had a number of
ryes and put the movie on and promptly fell asleep. So a few weeks ago
I tried it again, this time without the rye.
There don't seem to be any reviews of this movie out there. Even the
usually thorough Thrilling Detective doesn't have this P.I. listed in
the ranks. So I thought I would do a quick review and tell you a bit
about the movie.
Here's the set up. Stan Navarro (Edward James Olmos) is a former cop who
now heads his own large private investigative agency in Los Angeles. He
has a whole team of junior P.I.s working for him, all of them ex-law
enforcement people with rather troubled pasts just like Navarro. As the
movie opens we find one of Navarro's investigators, a guy named Lee,
tailing a Hollywood acting teacher and her sleazy boyfriend. Lee has
ambitions to write a P.I. novel (or perhaps a screenplay much like
Hollywood Confidential) and as he follows the acting teacher he dictates
into a little microcassette recorder. He will do this intermittently
throughout the movie, providing a bit of old-fashioned first-person
P.I. novel narrative.
Lee is following the acting teacher because it is thought that she might
be blackmailing one of her clients. There is also another of Navarro's
P.I.s, a woman named Sally (Charlize Theron of all people) who is working
undercover at a swank nightclub investigating some employee theft
that they suspect is going on. These two threads form the two subplots
and will continue on through the majority of the movie.
The main plot of the movie deals with a little matter that Navarro is
working on for one of his clients, a high-power attorney and agent named
Bliss. Bliss has a client who is a famous film director. The director is
married, but has been having an affair with a young woman on the side.
When the director wants to call it quits, the girl, Heather, just won't
go away nicely. So Bliss hires Navarro to pay the girl off and make the
problem go away. Navarro doesn't want to take the job. But when Bliss
threatens to cut off the 300K or so of work he sends him per year if he
doesn't, Navarro reluctantly goes along with it.
Navarro himself meets with Heather. He gives her 10 grand in cash and
tells her she needs to sign a confidentially agreement and leave
town. The only trouble is that Heather is young and naive and unwise to
the way things work in Hollywood, a true lamb among lions. Heather
refuses the deal. Navarro can't force her, and he backs off. The next
thing you know Heather is calling the famous director again. Which gets
an instant call from Bliss telling Navarro to increase the pressure. He
also sends Navarro more money, this time a 100K pay-off to get rid of
her. Navarro tries once again, but the girl just won't take the deal.
I can't go on any more at this point without writing in a plot spoiler.
But let's just say that there are details about Heather and the
relationship that eventually emerge when Heather attempts to commit
suicide, and which further explain the motivating factors involved.
I found the character of Heather to be too over the top. There's just
too much written into the script emphasizing her innocence — which of
course they make sure to contrast with the narcissism of the Hollywood
types. It's not only hard to believe that anyone could be that naive
these days, but it's difficult to imagine that Heather, no matter how
innocent, wouldn't just decide to say to hell with all of it and to take
the 100K and make a new life for herself.
At the end of the movie, in the guise of one of Lee's writing classes,
we are given a reading of Yeats' "Sailing to Byzantium" pretty much in
it's entirety, which once again funtions to point out the vacuousness of
Tinseltown — as if we haven't gotten the point by then. But in the end
Navarro plays it tough in true private-eye fashion, turns the tables on
Bliss and the famous director, and things turn out reasonably okay.
There were some really good ideas in this movie, but even good ideas
can turn out bad if you push them too far. I would say that Hollywood
Confidential is worth a viewing from the acting standpoint. Olmos is
always good, and it seems that his presence inspired both Cheron and
Richard T. Jones to the extent that both give really good performances.
And a couple of ryes might help this movie too. Just don't drink too many
of them and fall asleep.
I have to give this one a 3-1/2 GU, with at least 1 GU of that rating
being for the stars and the acting.
P.M.P.I. Rating (Out of 5)