Starring: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, Perry Lopez, John Hillerman, Diane Ladd, Darrell Zwerling, Burt Young
Director: Roman Polanski
Summary: A Los Angeles private eye’s investigation into a case of infidelity leads to him unraveling a massive web of corruption within the city.
Other Nominations: Director, Actor (Nicholson), Actress (Dunaway), Original Screenplay*, Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design, Sound, Film Editing, Original Score
-The script is one of the best (maybe the best) for a mystery noir-it keeps us on our toes guessing what’s going to come next with some great twists and turns, it’s exciting, it has great characters that are both totally tropes of the genre (the hard boiled PI who doesn’t know when to quit, the femme fatale) yet are distinctive and give new life to those kinds of characters, and I love how it really builds up the character of Noah Cross before we ever meet him and then he looms over the whole movie despite only being in it for 15 minutes. It has a little bit of everything, and the last 15 minutes are some of the best ever, even on my second viewing. On the whole, it reminds me of something Billy Wilder would write if he was in his prime in the 1970s.
-Nicholson and Dunaway are both fantastic in the leads, playing their archetypes perfectly. Nicholson is funny, charming, crass, yet until the end doesn’t let anything really get to him because his character has seen pretty much everything before. Dunaway was one of the best (maybe the best) leading woman of the era, and everything about her screams mystery and “she’s hiding something” behind her poker face, but with more style and elegance than say, Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon, and she’s also better at the more emotional scenes. Last but certainly not least is John Huston; there have been plenty of people nominated (or have even won) Supporting Actor/Actress for movies they only appeared in for 15 minutes, so I don’t know how he didn’t for this one (he did get nominated for the Golden Globe), as he’s amazing every time he shows up.
-You can see why L.A. Noire pretty much outright stole the score from Chinatown-it’s big brassy sound with piano undertones is perfect for the film and is one of Jerry Goldsmith’s best efforts, if not his best.
-Hmmmmm….Well, I don’t really like Roman Polanski as a person that much, so there’s that even if it didn’t effect my enjoyment of the movie (he also shows up on-screen briefly in an important scene). Other than that? Too much water? You’ve got me.
It’s a shame that it had to go up against The Godfather Part II, as in almost any other year it would have won Best Picture (and even won the Golden Globe for Best Drama over that movie). If you like noirs, mysteries or even are someone who likes dramas and has a healthy tolerance for cynicism, you’ll probably love this movie. Watch it if you haven’t.