Analysis of LA confidential - draft

Summary In the movie, set in 1950s Los Angeles, corruption and violence are exposed beneath the city's surface. The opening scene introduces the audience to Mickey Cohen and his bodyguard, as well as Gorgeous George wrestling at the Olympic Auditorium. Hush-Hush magazine's publisher, Sid Hudgeons, works in his office, and the hit show 'Badge of Honor' airs on a storefront TV. The movie follows the story of several characters, including Bud White, Sergeant Jack Vincennes, and Ed Exley, as they navigate the city's dark underbelly. They become involved in drug busts, uncover police brutality, and investigate a mass shooting at a diner. As the movie progresses, the characters' paths intertwine, and they find themselves uncovering a call girl operation and a conspiracy involving organized crime and police corruption. Ultimately, they must confront their own moral dilemmas and make difficult choices. The movie ends with a deadly confrontation between Exley and Dudley Smith, leading to Exley's arrest and a realization of the consequences of their actions.


Screenplay Story Analysis

Story Critique The overall story of the screenplay is engaging and compelling, with a complex web of corruption and crime. The tone is consistent throughout, capturing the gritty and dark atmosphere of 1950s Los Angeles. The characters are well-developed and each has their own motivations and conflicts. The scenes are well-paced and the dialogue is sharp and realistic. The screenplay effectively explores themes of loyalty, justice, and the blurred lines between right and wrong. It also provides a nuanced portrayal of postwar Los Angeles, highlighting both the optimism and the dark underbelly of the city. The violence and brutality depicted in the story add tension and stakes to the plot. The climax of the screenplay is intense and satisfying, with a mix of action and emotional resolution. Overall, the story is intriguing and well-executed, keeping the audience engaged throughout.
Suggestions: One suggestion to improve the screenplay is to provide more clarity and depth to the main character's arc. While the story follows multiple characters and their journeys, it would be beneficial to delve deeper into the internal struggles and growth of the protagonist, particularly Sergeant Exley. This could involve exploring his inner conflicts, doubts, and the choices he makes in the pursuit of justice. Additionally, some scenes could benefit from more visual descriptions and atmosphere-building to enhance the overall cinematic experience. Finally, tightening the pacing in certain parts of the screenplay could help maintain the momentum and engage the audience even more.

Note: This is the overall critique. For scene by scene critique click here

Characters in the screenplay, and their arcs:

Pierce Patchett

Pierce Patchett is a highly successful businessman with a well-connected and affluent lifestyle. He has a charismatic and suave personality, which he uses to navigate the world of prostitution and sex work. He exudes authority and operates his call girl operation with a sense of control and confidence. However, there is also a darker side to Pierce that is revealed as the movie progresses. He is involved in illegal activities including pornography scams and drug trafficking. This suggests that his wealth and status have been built on shady deals and immoral behavior.



Bud White

Bud White is a tough and stubborn police officer with a strong moral compass and an aversion to betraying his fellow policemen. He has a history of violence and is prone to hot-headed outbursts, but also has a soft spot for women and vulnerable people. He is haunted by his past and seeks redemption through his work as a detective.



Jack Vincennes

Jack Vincennes is a suave and charming detective who enjoys the spotlight and mixing with Hollywood's elite. He possesses a degree of moral ambiguity in his decision-making but is ultimately not inherently immoral. However, he is plagued by guilt and desperation, leading him to make risky decisions.



Sid Hudgeons

Sid Hudgeons is a character with a strong drive for personal gain and profit. He is willing to use his connections and lack of morality to get ahead in life. He is unscrupulous and will publish anything for a profit, regardless of the consequences. He is sleazy and manipulative, always looking for ways to benefit himself at the expense of others. Hudgeons is a character with no real redeeming qualities, only a desire for personal gain.



Lynn Bracken

Lynn Bracken is a complicated and multifaceted character throughout the movie. She is beautiful, glamorous, and graceful, but also connected to organized crime through her work as a call girl. Lynn is intelligent and adept at playing off men's desires, but she is also a victim of the corrupt system that she is caught up in. Despite this, she is confident, empathetic, and able to connect with Bud on a deep level. She is conflicted about her work and her relationships, but she is also trying to find a way out of her life as a call girl.



Dudley Smith

Dudley Smith is a complex and multifaceted character, whose personality and actions change dramatically throughout the movie. At first, he is portrayed as a tough and respected police captain who commands authority and respect from his subordinates. As the story progresses, however, it becomes clear that Dudley is more than just a law enforcement officer - he is a corrupt and ruthless politician who seeks to turn Los Angeles into a police-controlled haven of vice and corruption. Despite this, Dudley is also a shrewd and pragmatic individual, who understands the necessity of compromise and is willing to do whatever it takes to get results.



Ed Exley

Ed Exley is an ambitious and capable young officer who struggles with doing the right thing, torn between the rules set by his father and the temptations of his job. He is dutiful and steadfast in his resolve, but also somewhat naive and inexperienced as a detective. As he rises in rank, he becomes more cunning and willing to bend the rules to get ahead, but is also visibly affected by the violence he witnesses and has difficulty forging meaningful connections with others.



Exley

Exley is a moral and principled detective driven by a strong sense of justice. He is diligent and serious in his work, often putting himself at odds with his colleagues due to his uncompromising integrity. Despite being viewed as a brown-noser and being underestimated due to his clean-cut appearance, Exley is a skilled and calculating investigator who is always on the lookout for new clues. He can be manipulative at times and has a complicated relationship with justice and the truth, grappling with his own guilt and ambition throughout the story. Overall, Exley is a complex and conflicted character who is willing to do whatever it takes to uncover the truth, even if it means making questionable choices.



Bud

Bud is a tough, no-nonsense cop who is fueled by a deep, often volatile, passion for justice. He is rough-around-the-edges and has a tendency to resort to violence, but his intentions are always noble. He is fiercely loyal to his colleagues and friendships mean a lot to him. He uses his gun to ground himself and has a deep connection to it. He is struggling to find his place in the department and the city, but he is determined to make a difference and see justice served.



Dudley

Dudley is a seasoned and corrupt police captain who is willing to do whatever it takes to maintain his control over the city's organized crime scene. He is manipulative, quick-witted, and suave in his attempts to gain compliance from others. He is also unpredictable and often violent, making him a dangerous foe for anyone who gets in his way.



Jack

Jack is a confident and ambitious detective, eager to make a name for himself. He has an ego that he wants to maintain and he enjoys the attention that comes with success. However, as the film progresses, Jack becomes increasingly conflicted by the moral implications of the work he is doing. He is charismatic and suave, but he struggles with his conscience as he becomes more involved in the corrupt world around him.



Character Arc Critique Suggestions
Pierce Patchett Pierce Patchett's character arc begins with his seemingly confident and powerful persona, but as the film unfolds, we see glimpses of his inner turmoil and the moral ambiguity of his actions. This is highlighted when he is found dead with a suicide note implicating him in illegal activities. His arc ultimately ends with the revelation of his dark secrets and the consequences of these actions. Through his demise, Pierce serves as a cautionary tale about the corrupting nature of power and wealth. The character arc for Pierce Patchett is well-developed and effective in conveying the complexities of his character. However, the initial introduction of Pierce as a powerful and charismatic character could be further explored to add more depth to his eventual downfall. Additionally, his involvement in drug trafficking seems hastily introduced and could have been better integrated earlier in the story.
One suggestion for improving Pierce's character arc would be to further explore his past and the events that led him to become involved in prostitution and pornography scams. This could add complexity to his character and highlight the factors that shape a person's moral compass. Additionally, integrating his involvement in drug trafficking earlier in the story could strengthen his character arc and make his downfall more plausible and impactful.
Bud White Bud begins the movie as a tough and uncompromising police officer with a deep-seated hatred for abusers and rapists. He is fiercely loyal to his partner and fellow policemen, but also struggles with his emotions and tendency towards violence. As the Nite Owl case unfolds, Bud becomes more invested in solving it and willing to bend the rules to uncover the truth. He becomes increasingly unhinged as he uncovers disturbing truths about his partners and the case, leading to violent outbursts. However, he ultimately achieves redemption by bringing justice to the victims and exposing the corruption within the LAPD. The character arc for Bud is strong and well-developed, but the transition from hot-headed cop to rule-bending detective could be more convincingly portrayed. Additionally, the resolution of his personal issues with Lynn feels rushed and underdeveloped.
To improve the character arc for Bud, show more gradual changes in his behavior as he becomes more invested in the Nite Owl case. Also, give more time to resolving his personal issues with Lynn to make it feel more convincing and satisfying.
Jack Vincennes As the story progresses, Jack Vincennes becomes increasingly disillusioned with his corrupt lifestyle and starts to realize the consequences of his actions. He is struggling with guilt over his involvement in the set-up of the Nite Owl murders and becoming desperate for money, leading him to make even riskier decisions that ultimately result in his death. His death serves as a turning point for Exley and Bud, causing them to re-evaluate their own actions and values, leading to redemption and moral growth. The character arc of Jack Vincennes is well-developed, but it would benefit from more moments of introspection and self-reflection. Throughout the film, Jack's character seems to be defined by his actions and external circumstances rather than his internal struggle, making it challenging for audiences to empathize with him. Additionally, his death is abrupt and lacks emotional impact, leaving audiences feeling detached from the character.
To improve Jack Vincennes' character arc, the screenplay could include more moments of introspection and self-reflection, allowing audiences a deeper understanding of his internal struggle and motivations. Additionally, the final scene leading up to his death could benefit from more emotional weight, highlighting the tragic consequences of his actions and ultimately serving as a catalyst for Exley and Bud's redemption.
Sid Hudgeons Throughout the movie, Sid Hudgeons starts off as a minor character, appearing only a few times in the background. However, as the plot thickens, Hudgeons becomes more and more involved in the story. He offers Jack the opportunity to profit from his connections and lack of morality, showing his true sleazy nature. As the LAPD begins to investigate Pierce Patchett's prostitution ring, Hudgeons becomes a key player, trying to save his own skin by cooperating with the police. However, this backfires on him as he is ultimately exposed for his involvement in the scheme and loses everything. In the end, Hudgeons is left with nothing, having lost his business, his reputation, and any chance at personal gain. His arc serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of greed and corruption. While Sid Hudgeons serves as a useful foil to Jack and the other more morally upright characters, his arc feels somewhat predictable and one-dimensional. Hudgeons is solely motivated by personal gain, and his eventual downfall is expected from the moment he is introduced. Additionally, his character is not given much depth beyond his greed and sleaziness. He is not shown to have any real relationships or emotional connections. As a result, his arc can feel somewhat disconnected from the rest of the film's more emotionally rich storylines.
To improve Sid Hudgeons' character arc, it would be helpful to explore his motivations in greater depth. What drives his greed and willingness to cross ethical lines? Does he have any personal history or relationships that could shed light on his character? Additionally, it would be interesting to see Hudgeons struggle more with his conscience as he becomes more deeply embroiled in the LAPD's investigation. Perhaps he could show signs of guilt or second thoughts about betraying his former partners. These changes could add more complexity to Hudgeons' arc and make it feel more compelling.
Lynn Bracken Lynn's character arc is one of struggle, growth, and ultimately, tragedy. Throughout the movie, she is grappling with her past, her present, and the decision of whether or not to speak out about the corruption she has witnessed. She is caught between her desire for a better life and her fear of the consequences of speaking out. As she grows closer to Bud, Lynn begins to see a way out for herself, but she is ultimately victimized by him and the violent world around her. Her arc ends in tragedy, as she is taken into custody for her own safety after being beaten up by someone. While Lynn's character is compelling and complex, her arc feels somewhat incomplete. Her growth and struggle are clear, but her tragic end feels somewhat unsatisfying. Additionally, some of her actions and choices throughout the movie can be difficult to reconcile, and it's unclear what motivates her to make certain decisions.
To improve Lynn's character arc, it might be helpful to provide more clarity around her motivations and desires. What is driving her to seek a way out of her life as a call girl? What does she hope to achieve by speaking out? Additionally, it might be helpful to connect her arc more closely to the broader themes and messages of the movie. How is Lynn's struggle reflective of the larger issues of corruption, violence, and gender dynamics? Providing more context and clarity around these elements could help to strengthen Lynn's character arc and make her tragic end feel more impactful and meaningful.
Dudley Smith Dudley's character arc is one of moral decay and eventual downfall. Initially, he is a veteran cop who has seen it all and understands the reality of police work, but he ultimately becomes consumed by his own ambition and corruption. Over the course of the movie, Dudley becomes increasingly ruthless and cruel, engaging in a variety of illegal activities including drug trafficking and murder. As his power and influence grow, however, so does the threat to his own safety and stability. In the end, Dudley's actions catch up with him, and he is confronted by the consequences of his own misdeeds. While Dudley's character arc is certainly engaging and well-developed, it can also be criticized for lacking nuance and subtlety. In many ways, Dudley's transformation from respected cop to corrupt politician is too abrupt and extreme, making it difficult for audiences to sympathize with his choices and actions. Additionally, Dudley's ultimate downfall feels somewhat predictable and formulaic, robbing the narrative of some of its tension and emotional impact.
To improve Dudley's character arc, the screenwriters could focus more on his internal struggles and motivations, rather than simply depicting him as a one-dimensional villain. By exploring what drives Dudley to become corrupt and engage in illegal activities, the writers could help audiences understand his choices and empathize with his struggles. Additionally, the ultimate resolution of Dudley's arc could be more ambiguous and open-ended, leaving audiences guessing about the character's true fate and providing greater dramatic tension.
Ed Exley Ed begins as a by-the-book cop who is determined to solve the Nite Owl case and climb the ranks of the police department. As the investigation unfolds, he becomes more and more willing to compromise his values in order to achieve his goals, betraying and alienating those closest to him. Ultimately, he realizes the gravity of his actions and must find a way to make amends and redeem himself while also bringing those responsible for the corruption to justice. The character arc is well done, showcasing the dangers of ambition and the importance of staying true to oneself. However, the transition from lawful cop to corrupt detective could be more gradual, as well as his eventual realization and redemption.
To improve the character arc, Ed's descent into corruption could be more nuanced and subtle, with small compromises building up over time. Additionally, his ultimate redemption could be more challenging and hard-earned, requiring more introspection and personal growth.
Exley Exley's character arc begins with his initial disgust at the corrupt actions of his squad and his determination to do the right thing. As the story progresses, his ambition for recognition and advancement drives him to make questionable choices, leading to a rift with his fellow officers including his former partner Bud. Eventually, Exley realizes the toll his choices have taken on himself and those around him, leading him to a major decision that defines his character and sets him on a path towards redemption. While Exley's character arc showcases a compelling journey of moral conflict and redemption, it could benefit from further exploration of the emotional toll his choices take on him and the people around him. Additionally, his complicated relationship with justice and the truth could be further developed throughout the story to provide a deeper understanding of his motivations and conflicts.
To improve Exley's character arc, consider incorporating scenes that delve deeper into his emotional state and the consequences of his actions. Further exploration of his complex relationship with justice and the truth can also provide greater depth and nuance to his character. Consider showcasing moments of vulnerability and intimacy to highlight the emotional toll of his journey and further emphasize his eventual redemption.
Bud At the beginning of the movie, Bud is still coming to terms with the assault on his partner and is determined to find the perpetrators. As the investigation progresses, he becomes increasingly obsessed with the case and is willing to go to extreme lengths to see justice done. However, his reckless behavior leads to him being marginalized within the department and he begins to feel isolated and unsure of his place. In the end, he is able to channel his passion for justice into a more strategic approach and collaborates with his colleagues to bring the perpetrators to justice. Along the way he also learns the importance of trusting others and working within the confines of the law instead of taking matters into his own hands. While Bud's character arc is compelling, it relies heavily on tropes of the rogue cop who bends the rules to see justice done. While this can be entertaining, it also perpetuates a harmful narrative that romanticizes police brutality and vigilantism. Additionally, while Bud's arc does show some growth and development, it is largely driven by external factors (i.e. his isolation within the department) rather than internal reflection and changes in his beliefs and values.
To improve Bud's character arc, it would be helpful to provide more nuance to his motivations and internal struggles. Instead of relying on tired tropes of the rogue cop, explore the more complex reasons behind Bud's obsession with justice. Additionally, give Bud more agency in his development by showing him actively questioning his actions and beliefs, rather than solely reacting to external circumstances. Finally, consider adding more representation and diverse perspectives to the story, as the current narrative largely centers around white male police officers.
Dudley Throughout the movie, Dudley's character arc involves a descent into darkness as he becomes more and more involved in illegal activities for his own gain. He starts off as a tough cop who is willing to bend the rules, but as the story progresses, he becomes increasingly corrupt, ultimately representing the very thing that Exley is fighting against. By the end of the movie, Dudley has lost all sense of justice and morality, and has become a ruthless antagonist who will do anything to protect his own interests. While Dudley's character arc is well-developed, it could benefit from a bit more nuance and complexity. At times, he comes off as a bit too one-dimensional, serving primarily as a foil for the more virtuous characters. To improve his character arc, it might be helpful to explore more deeply the reasons behind his descent into darkness, and to give him moments of redemption or vulnerability that make him more sympathetic.
One way to improve Dudley's character arc might be to give him more backstory or personal motivations that explain why he has become so corrupt. Perhaps he has had a difficult past that has made him cynical and jaded, or maybe he is struggling with personal demons that have led him down this path. Additionally, you could consider giving him moments of moral ambiguity, where he is torn between doing what is right and what is expedient. This would make him a more complex and interesting character, and might make his ultimate downfall more poignant.
Jack As Jack becomes more involved in the case and the corrupt world of the LAPD, he is forced to confront his own morality. He initially believes that the ends justify the means and is willing to go to great lengths to solve the case. However, as he discovers the lengths that others have gone to cover up their crimes and protect their own interests, he begins to question whether he is still on the right side. Ultimately, Jack has to choose between his own ambition and doing what is right. The character arc is well-developed and is a classic struggle between individual ambition and morality. However, the arc could benefit from more nuance and complexity. Jack's transformation could be more gradual, with moments of doubt and hesitation along the way. Additionally, the film could explore the factors that contribute to Jack's initial willingness to bend the rules. Perhaps he has a family to support or he feels pressure to prove himself within the LAPD.
To improve the character arc, consider adding more nuance to Jack's transformation. Show moments of doubt and hesitation along the way and explore the factors that contribute to his willingness to bend the rules. For example, maybe he has a family to support or he feels pressure to prove himself within the LAPD. Additionally, the film could benefit from showing the impact that Jack's decisions have on his personal relationships, both inside and outside the department.
Theme Theme Details Themee Explanation
Corruption and PowerThe screenplay explores the theme of corruption and abuse of power within the police force and political circles of Los Angeles.The presence of gangland violence, corruption, and political power brokers are showcased in the opening montage, and this theme is further developed throughout the screenplay as characters uncover illicit activities, question their own morals, and ultimately confront those in positions of power.
Justice and MoralityThe theme of justice and morality is prominent, as characters navigate their roles in upholding the law while facing ethical dilemmas and questioning the systems in place.Various scenes showcase characters' strong sense of duty for justice, but also raise questions about morality and the lengths one is willing to go to achieve it. The scenes involving police brutality, an investigation into a mass shooting, and confrontations with corrupt individuals all contribute to the exploration of justice and morality.
Betrayal and LoyaltyThe theme of betrayal and loyalty plays a significant role in the screenplay, as characters discover hidden agendas, question each other's motivations, and forge alliances.Characters such as Bud White and Exley grapple with the betrayal they feel when confronted with the actions of their colleagues, while also remaining loyal to their duty and their pursuit of justice. The theme of betrayal and loyalty adds complexity to the relationships between characters and drives the plot forward.
Appearance vs RealityThe theme of appearance vs reality is explored through the contrast between the glamorous facade of Los Angeles and the dark underbelly of corruption and violence.The opening montage showcases a booming economy and postwar optimism, but as the screenplay progresses, the audience is shown the hidden truths beneath the surface. This theme is further developed with the discovery of a call girl operation that transforms girls into doppelgangers of movie stars, highlighting the disconnect between appearance and reality in the city.
Consequences and RedemptionThe theme of consequences and redemption is prevalent as characters face the fallout of their actions, confront their own demons, and strive for redemption.Characters like Bud White and Exley grapple with the consequences of their violent actions and the toll it takes on their sense of self. The scene where Exley gifts Bud his Medal of Honor signifies a moment of redemption and growth for both characters. The theme of consequences and redemption adds depth to the character arcs and emphasizes the moral and emotional journey they undertake.



Screenwriting Resources on Themes

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Studio Binder Movie Themes: Examples of Common Themes for Screenwriters
Coverfly Improving your Screenplay's theme
John August Writing from Theme

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Story, Plot, Genre, Theme - Screenwriting Basics Screenwriting basics - beginner video
What is theme Discussion on ways to layer theme into a screenplay.
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Goals and Philosophical Conflict
internal Goals The protagonist's internal goal is to uncover the truth and seek justice, while also grappling with their own personal demons and desires.
External Goals The protagonist's external goal is to solve the crime, protect the community, and take down the corrupt individuals involved.
Philosophical Conflict The overarching philosophical conflict is the tension between justice and corruption, morality and pragmatism, and the desire for power and influence versus upholding one's moral code.


Character Development Contribution: These elements contribute to the character's development by challenging their beliefs, values, and worldviews. They confront their own flaws, make difficult decisions, and ultimately find growth and resolution.

Narrative Structure Contribution: The goals and conflicts drive the plot forward as the characters navigate through a web of corruption, uncovering clues and facing obstacles that put them in danger physically and morally.

Thematic Depth Contribution: These elements deepen the thematic exploration of justice, morality, and the corrupting influence of power. The characters' journeys reflect the complexities of human nature and the moral dilemmas inherent in pursuing justice within a flawed system.


Screenwriting Resources on Goals and Philosophical Conflict

Articles

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Creative Screenwriting How Important Is A Character’s Goal?
Studio Binder What is Conflict in a Story? A Quick Reminder of the Purpose of Conflict

YouTube Videos

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How I Build a Story's Philosophical Conflict How do you build philosophical conflict into your story? Where do you start? And how do you develop it into your characters and their external actions. Today I’m going to break this all down and make it fully clear in this episode.
Endings: The Good, the Bad, and the Insanely Great By Michael Arndt: I put this lecture together in 2006, when I started work at Pixar on Toy Story 3. It looks at how to write an "insanely great" ending, using Star Wars, The Graduate, and Little Miss Sunshine as examples. 90 minutes
Tips for Writing Effective Character Goals By Jessica Brody (Save the Cat!): Writing character goals is one of the most important jobs of any novelist. But are your character's goals...mushy?