Screen Life

Why send newly formed cops to this slick Hollywood how-to of police corruption and brutality? Might they not pick up bad habits, like thinking it was okay to coerce a confession using a clenched fist?

My handbag - open, enticing - was left in a crowded cinema. On purpose. This would be the first and last time I could ever return to my seat and know it would be unmolested. There I was, at Odeon Marble Arch, sitting with what looked like the whole of Hendon Police Academy's graduating class, watching LA Confidential - a hard-boiled blistering film noir filled with luscious hookers, rotten papparazzi, porn merchants and - oh yes - bad cops.

The preview, a treat for these fledgling policepersons in their final week of training, did seem a little weird. Starring Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger and Danny DeVito, LA Confidential is being heralded as one of the movies of the year. But why send newly formed cops to this slick Hollywood how-to of police corruption and brutality? Wasn't it dangerous, with their minds being set on "intake mode" and all? Wouldn't this film eradicate 18 weeks of prime training? Mightn't they pick up bad habits, like thinking it was okay to steal heroin from the mob or coerce a confession from a felon using the eloquent vocabulary of the clenched fist. During the film, spirits ran high. Quotes about the use of violence caused a few shufflings of feet. When a pistol was placed in a suspect's hand after he was shot - a set-up - there were murmurs of shock and disgust. When Kim Basinger's ample chest-for-hire hove into view, a small hoot shot up from the back row. But what got the loudest guffaw was the line that the LAPD was, "the finest police force in the world." You mean it's not true?

After the film, I asked a few budding bobbies to help me with my inquiries. After a blazing show of naughtiness like LA Confidential, Hendon's Finest noticed... what?

"Well", said one, "That detective should have gone in the back door there, not the front door." Another quipped, "The forensics team would only allow two people in a room under those circumstances..." It was rather like talk show host David Letterman's version of Expert Witness when Dave gets an expert in to comment on a certain minor aspect of a movie: a dentist for the drilling scene in Marathon Man, an expert on sunglasses for Men In Black. You get the idea.

So, my son, if LA Confidential makes you want to sign up to be a cop because of all the sex and violence, think again. According to Hendon's Finest, getting naked with a hooker who looks like Veronica Lake (okay, its Kim Basinger) or taking a bribe (from Danny DeVito) only happens in Hollywood. Now move along. There's nothing to see here.

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