LA Confidential appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Much of the time the movie looked excellent, but it suffered from a few small problems.
Sharpness looked erratic. While some parts of the film looked reasonably well-defined, many parts demonstrated light softness. I thought delineation was usually acceptable but that was about it; this was rarely a particularly crisp image. No shimmering occurred, but I saw some mild jagged edges. In addition, I noticed light edge enhancement. In regard to print flaws, I saw a little grain at times, and I also witnessed some specks, grit, and a scratch or two.
Confidential tended toward a sepia palette to fit its period setting. Colors were decent and not often much better. A few scenes featured brighter tones, but these remained fairly average. Blacks were acceptably dark, while low-light shots showed good delineation. Though those shots tended to suffer from the most noticeable softness, they presented fine clarity in terms of shadows. At no point did Confidential become a bad transfer, but I thought it seemed average.
Though the film often used a somewhat sepia look, it often provided a vivid palette, and the DVD replicated the hues very nicely. The colors always came across as clear and vibrant, and they showed no signs of bleeding, noise, or other concerns. The tones seemed quite positive across the board. Black levels appeared deep and dense, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy but not overly thick. In the end, the edge enhancement and print flaws caused a few issues, but I still found L.A. Confidential to present a good image.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of LA Confidential worked reasonably well, though it didn’t provide a broad enough soundfield to merit more than a “B”. The track showed good stereo spread throughout the movie, and the forward channels offered a nice sense of atmosphere. Elements blended well and moved smoothly across the front spectrum. As for the surrounds, they contributed moderate reinforcement of the front elements and only sporadically provided unique information. The shootout at the end of the film definitely gave us the most active use of the rear speakers.
Audio quality appeared fine, though speech suffered due to all that looping. Much of the dubbed dialogue seemed too obvious, and this made the track come across as more artificial than it should. The lines remained natural and distinct, though, and they showed no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects sounded clean and accurate, and they displayed no distortion. Some of the louder elements line gunfire kicked in solid bass response. Music also seemed vibrant and robust with deep and rich low-end. In the end, the track lacked the sonic ambition to earn a high grade, but LA Confidential still provided a quality auditory experience.
Back when LA Confidential hit DVD in 1998, it included a solid array of extras. In 2008, the package seems less stellar, but it still features a few interesting pieces. An 18-minute and 49-second featurette called Off the Record includes notes from director Curtis Hanson, writer Brian Helgeland, novelist James Ellroy, executive producer David L. Wolper, producer Arnon Milchan, and actors Kim Basinger, Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, and Danny DeVito. “Record” provides a good general overview of the film. It emphasizes the novel’s adaptation, getting the project off the ground, and casting. It turns into an enjoyable piece.
An alternate audio option appears. We can listen to the film via a Music-Only Track. This allows fans to hear Jerry Goldsmith’s score in its full Dolby Digital 5.1 glory. While I don’t have a great fondness for movie music, I think this is a nice bonus for film score buffs.
Photo Pitch goes for eight minutes, 25 seconds. In it, Hanson leads us through his use of the “photo pitch” for cast and Milchan. This was part of the way he managed to get involvement in the project. It offers a neat look at this process.
Next we find The LA of LA Confidential. This program provides brief snippets of real-life details for the locations used in the film. It seems interesting but the awkward interface mars the piece. Although it features 15 locations, you can only access one clip at a time. Due to the brevity of the clips – they last about 20 to 30 seconds each – it can become a tedious exercise to watch all of them. The DVD should have provided a “Play All” option to make access easier.
A few minor extras fill out the set. We get Cast and Crew Bios for composer Jerry Goldsmith, director of photography Dante Spinotti, novelist James Ellroy, screenwriter Brian Helgeland, director Curtis Hanson, producers Arnon Milchan and Michael Nathanson, and actors Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Danny DeVito, James Cromwell, Kim Basinger and David Strathairn. More text production notes discuss the LA Mob Scene of the movie’s era, the way Dragnet reflected the LAPD in the Fifties, the factual basis behind “Bloody Christmas”, a chart of 1953 prices for some common commodities, and a list of awards for which Confidential received nominations.
Finally, some ads cap the package. We get three TV spots as well as the movie’s trailer and a soundtrack promo.
One of the better modern film noirs, LA Confidential holds up well after more than a decade. It definitely stands as one of the best Oscar runner-ups in history, as it offers an involving, dynamic tale. The DVD suffers from a bland transfer, but it comes with fairly good audio and a few interesting supplements. This is a decent release for a fine movie.
To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL