(Originally from SLWB, September 24, 2014
|Title sequence newsreel/stag film|
The Wild West circa 1950s....
This film reminds you not only of all the "B" LA/Desert based crime Noir films but it also channels a very strong updated Western vibe with its quasi legal vigilante justice story line. Endorsed by the "chief" a nice cameo by Dern, the un-officially sanctioned Hat Squad, Hoover (Nolte), Coolidge (Palminteri), Hall (Madsen), and Relyea (Penn) are like modern day Earp Brothers riding around the boulevards of broken dreams in the ultimate Western "boom" town, The City of Angels, "tinsel town", LA.
|'49 Buick Roadmaster|
|The Hat Squad, Hall (Madsen), Coolidge (Palminteri), Hoover (Nolte), and Relyea (Penn)|
|Hat Squad in action|
|Taking the Mafioso for a "ride"|
Hoover: This ain't America, this is LA...
|Arriving at the "airport"|
The catalyst to the decent into Noirsville is when the squad is sent to investigate the body of a woman who is embedded face down into the ground at a housing development in the hills above LA. She looks like she was run over by a steamroller, and when she is pried out and turned over her identity is known to Hoover who is visibly shaken.
His reaction is noticed by his squad mates. An autopsy indicates that she fell from a great height, like a cliff, but there are no cliffs at the site. An X-Ray has a curious blank section caused by a radioactive piece of glass. Back at headquarters a film canister arrives addressed to Hoover and a screening reveals a stag film spliced with shots of a desert resort, a military instillation, a hospital ward and soldiers at a tactical atomic bomb test.
|Nuke Test audience|
|General Timms (Malkovich)|
|A tactical nuke|
|Allison Pond (Connelly)|
The stag film shows the films equivalent to the femme fatale, Allison Ponds (Connelly) a '56 Caddy love goddess, fatal in one way or another to all the men she touches. Connelly is like a brunette Marilyn Monroe and she displays her assets in all their glory. Allison in the film is screwing an unknown man, Hoover's reaction to the film spurs Coolidge to confront him about the girl's identity, and Hoover confesses to having a six month affair with Allison, a high priced prostitute.
|Allison defending an underage girl from the pimp who was about to shoot her up with horse.|
In flashback we see Hoover, during a raid on an after hours club, walk in on Allison bitch slapping a pimp who was about to shoot the teen aged girl laying on a bed behind her with junk. Hoover overdoses the pimp dead with his own needle.
Allison's best friend and neighbor is Jimmy Fields (McCarthy), a gay photographer, he sent the film footage to Hoover as both evidence of a government cover-up (the reason he thinks that Allison was killed) and for protection from her killers. He confesses to the existence of other films indicating that he also has a film of Hoover with Allison.
|Hoover and Jimmy Fields (McCarthy)|
|The two-way mirror LAPD interrogation room|
The posse in their trusty steed a '49 Roadmaster
Melanie Griffith playing against her usual type is convincing as Hoover's wife, the woman he done wrong. It nice to see her stretch her talent to vulnerable characters.
|Griffith happy to tragic|
|Chief Of Police (Dern)|
|Colonel Nathan Fitzgerald (Williams)|
Classic Noir locations used are the Los Angels City Hall, the Pacific Coast, Desert Hot Springs, and Mulholland Drive. The film adds to that list a neat googie style converted motel apartments with pool and what has to be a unique instantly iconic neo noir location, the Sedan Crater in Nevada, a spooky nuclear bomb test site. The nuclear test angle of the story is a nod to Kiss Me Deadly but I've read that the films original ending was for Hoover and Coolidge, after surviving an emergency landing too near a test site, were to be incinerated by a nuclear blast. Now how utterly noir would that have been?
|Coolidge & Hoover right before the rumored vaporizing original ending.|
I say I like it better than LA Confidential, and more every time I watch it. The Cinematography by Haskell Wexler (In The Heat Of The Night) is gorgeous.
It got the hats right, it has a nice rendition of "Harbour Lights" by Aaron Neville, you gotta love that Buick Roadmaster convertible tooling across the gorgeous desert landscapes and also Jennifer Connelly's bOObs. I guess you gotta find out these things for yourself rather than go by critics, it's the reason I never checked it out. WTF were they thinking? Is it because almost nobody wears fedoras anymore or drive dinosaur gas guzzlers?, or was it because the cast was all adults and smoking is frowned upon, who knows. It reminds you of all the LA based crime Noirs. The only small fault is Nolte's mumbling, it's hard to understand him at times. Nice enough score by Dave Grusin 9/10