A pilot based on the feature film LA Confidential was proposed to HBO three years after the Oscar winning film debuted. The 2000 series would being back its three lead detectives, White, Exley and Vincennes as well as scheming tabloid writer Sid Hudgens of Hush Hush Magazine. And for the series we have Kiefer Sutherland playing Jack Vincennes, Josh Hopkins as Budd White, David Conrad as Exley and Pruitt Taylor Vince as Sid Hudgens.
The series was a sort of prequel to the film with Jack Vincennes just starting to go dirty and developing his sleazier motives. Ed Exley is living down his posh Beverly Hills upbringing to become a real detective (this was in the book but skipped over in the film) and Bud White is starting to suffer from flashbacks to his abusive childhood.
On liberty the series takes is Kim Basinger’s part from the movie, Lynn Bracken (Melissa George), arrives in Hollywood fresh off the bus here, where in the film it is only hinted at. Lynn also meets Bud at a party which makes the whole angle on their love affair in the film completely different here. So at some point her new boss Pierce Pratchett (Eric Roberts) will get her cut to look like Veronica Lake. Starting Lynn’s story at her origin is quite an interesting way of bringing the character into the series.
Russell Crowe’s Bud White was easily the most memorable cop in the feature film but the character has been down-graded to a smaller role in the series, as played by Josh Hopkins. He does the best he can with the part but he is easily the most forgettable character in the pilot.
The Vincennes role (Kevin Spacey in the movie) is expanded and seems to be the star of the series and now is played by Kiefer Sutherland. Vincennes seems to be fighting the good fight but the character seems morphed than that of the movie. Sutherland starred in this pilot a year before “24” and I really think if he would have played Bud White and Bud was as prominent here as he was in the movie then we may have never seen his Jack Bauer in 24.
David Conrad’s Exley is smarmy and course. But now accented by his lush lifestyle, he is more of a jerk in the series. But the whole rich angle did have great story potential especially with Robert Foxworth playing his father.
Other than trying to enjoy the pilot for what it was, the thing that bugged me the most was how the film was supposed to be set in the 1950s but not for a second did it feel like it. Sure we had the clothes and the old cars but the production design just left us hanging. Then there is the awful side storyline involving Ed Exley helping Marilyn Monroe find her sex tape. That Marilyn has to be the one of the worst versions I have ever seen.
It was an interesting attempt to bring the Oscar-winning movie to the screen. I guess originally it was going to be a 13-part mini-series for HBO but was turned down and then went to Fox who the killed it for the last time. If you are interested in seeing it is on the latest edition LA Confidential on DVD. The two-disc set is available on both DVD and Blu-Ray.
Pilot score: 3 out of 5.