5 Film Collection: Thrillers [5 Discs] [DVD]
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Based on the best-selling novel by James Ellroy and directed by Curtis Hanson, this award-winning crime drama explores both the dark side of the Los Angeles police force and Southern California's criminal underbelly in the early '50s, when Hollywood was still seen as America's capital of sophistication, glitter, and glamour. Dudley Smith (James Cromwell) is the head of the LAPD and is loyal to his officers and eager to turn a blind eye to violence or corruption within his department, as long as it's the "bad guys" who are getting hurt. Bud White (Russell Crowe) is a police detective whose violent and cynical nature is often at war with his basic sense of decency and justice. Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) is a beat cop-turned-detective whose strict by-the-book philosophy and willingness to blow the whistle on other officers is balanced by a shrewd and opportunistic understanding of the internal politics of the department. And Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) is a flashy "Hollywood" detective who serves as technical advisor for the TV series Badge of Honor. He is also in cahoots with Sid Hudgeons (Danny DeVito), publisher of the scandal sheet Hush Hush, who throws kickbacks to Vincennes in exchange for being brought along when showbiz figures get busted. White, Exley, and Vincennes find themselves drawn into a tangled and sticky web of violence and betrayal following a multiple murder at a coffee shop that is believed to be part of an effort by Mickey Cohen (Paul Guilfoyle) to consolidate his hold on organized crime in L.A. This lead appears to be connected to the discovery of a bizarre pornography and call-girl ring operated by Pierce Patchett (David Strathairn), whose women are given plastic surgery so that they more closely resemble well-known movie stars. White's role in the investigation is complicated when he falls for Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger), one of Patchett's prostitutes, who is the spitting image of Veronica Lake. L.A. Confidential was nominated for nine Academy Awards and netted two, with Brian Helgeland honored for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Kim Basinger taking home a statuette as Best Supporting Actress. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
This 1993 box-office smash partly adheres to the 1960s TV series on which it is based and partly goes off on several tangents of its own. Harrison Ford stars as Dr. Richard Kimble, convicted of murdering his wife. While being transferred to prison by bus, Kimble is involved in a spectacular bus-train collision (one of the best of its kind ever filmed). Surviving the disaster, Kimble escapes, vowing to track down the elusive professional criminal whom he holds responsible for the murder. Dogging the fugitive every foot of the way is U.S. marshal Sam Gerard (an Oscar-winning turn by Tommy Lee Jones), who announces his intention to search "every whorehouse, doghouse, and outhouse" to bring Kimble to justice. Unlike his dour TV-series counterpart Barry Morse, Jones plays the role with a sardonic sense of humor: when a cornered Kimble screams, "I didn't kill my wife," Gerard shrugs and famously replies, "I don't care." Once the premise has been established, scripters Jeb Stuart and David Twohy and director Andrew Davis pull off several audacious plot twists, ranging from Kimble's rendezvous with a sympathetic lab technician to a jaw-dropping dive into a huge waterfall. The second half of the film offers one surprise after another (including the true identity of the murderer), brilliantly avoiding the letdown that plagues many movie adaptations of old TV series. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
The Shawshank Redemption
In 1946, a banker named Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is convicted of a double murder, even though he stubbornly proclaims his innocence. He's sentenced to a life term at the Shawshank State Prison in Maine, where another lifer, Ellis "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman), picks him as the new recruit most likely to crack under the pressure. The ugly realities of prison life are quickly introduced to Andy: a corrupt warden (Bob Gunton), sadistic guards led by Capt. Byron Hadley (Clancy Brown), and inmates who are little better than animals, willing to use rape or beatings to insure their dominance. But Andy does not crack: he has the hope of the truly innocent, which (together with his smarts) allow him to prevail behind bars. He uses his banking skills to win favor with the warden and the guards, doing the books for Norton's illegal business schemes and keeping an eye on the investments of most of the prison staff. In exchange, he is able to improve the prison library and bring some dignity and respect back to many of the inmates, including Red. Based on a story by Stephen King, The Shawshank Redemption was the directorial debut of screenwriter Frank Darabont. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
L.A. cop Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson), whose wife has recently died, is a loose cannon with a seeming death wish. This makes him indispensable in collaring dangerous criminals, but a liability to any potential partners. Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), a conservative family man who wants to stay alive for his upcoming 50th birthday, is partnered with Riggs. As Riggs gets to know Murtaugh and his family, he begins to mellow, though his insistence on using guerilla tactics to catch criminals is still (put mildly) above and beyond the call of duty. The main villain is The General (Mitchell Ryan), a drug dealer responsible for the death of the daughter of one of Murtaugh's oldest friends. The General is also in charge of a deadly, militia-like gang of smugglers. Adding fuel to the fire is The General's chief henchman, played with all stops out by Gary Busey. Moviegoers familiar only with the relatively tongue-in-cheek Lethal Weapon sequels may be amazed to find out how dangerous and unpredictable Riggs is in the first Lethal Weapon -- and how likely it seems that Murtaugh might not survive until fade-out time. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
North by Northwest
Cast & Crew
- Kevin Spacey - Jack Vincennes
- Russell Crowe - Bud White
- Guy Pearce - Ed Exley
- James Cromwell - Dudley Smith
- Kim Basinger - Lynn Bracken