In 1950's Los Angeles, a special crime squad of the LAPD investigates the murder of a young woman.
The sloppy sophomore syndrome strikes again as New Zealander Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors) fails to follow through his debut success with this promising-sounding but ultimately tepid Hollywood movie. It has cool cars, snappy hats, a terrific cast, interesting subject matter and languid Angeleno noir going for it, but suffers from a script that goes nowhere to solve its obvious mystery.
In the early 1950s, Max Hoover (Nolte) leads the Hat Squad, a cadre of tough-acting Los Angeles cops who want to show they are hard enough to feature in a James Ellroy novel. Nolte is backed up by such reliably thuggish types as Palminteri, Michael Madsen and Chris Penn, with the always-welcome Bruce Dern in for a few scenes as the chief who looks the other way when his subordinates scare organised crime out of the city by dropping miscreants off the eponymous precipice.
The set-up is fine, but things get murky when a squashed woman (Jennifer Connelly) is found in the desert and Max receives a reel of film which shows her bouncing naked on an A-bomb test general (John Malkovich). Max, too, has been intimate with the dead girl and wants to keep this from his wife (Griffith) but sinister types keep giving him a hard time. Gay blackmailer Andrew McCarthy takes the Elisha Cook Jnr. hail of bullets route out of the film, and Treat Williams shows up as a creepy army officer, abetted by Daniel Baldwin as a sneaky FBI man, to make things difficult.
Given the cast (all of whom deliver something but none of whom are on top form), this is a low-power conspiracy movie, with a habit of diverting attention away from fascinating material such as botched bomb tests that have poisoned a regiment towards tawdry familiarities like Noltes foundering marriage. Its the kind of period thriller that would like to remind you of Chinatown but winds up reminding you of The Two Jakes.
Sloppy crime epic