L.A. Confidential (1997) **

Vivid backgrounds, good performances from Kevin Spacey and James Cromwell and a labyrinthine but entirely engrossing plot keep this Tinseltown crime thriller streets ahead of its peers all the way to the only slightly unsatisfactory ending. It's long and episodic but also tight: a difficult trick to pull off, as The Black Dahlia and countless others have proved.

The chief drawbacks are the two central characters played by Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe, whose fates you may find it extremely difficult to care about, and, as usual, some ridiculously anachronistic dialogue and character motivation. Veronica Lake fans may also be peeved by the film's repeated insistence that Kim Basinger's character is a dead ringer for her: she has a similar hairstyle.