The critically-acclaimed L.A. Confidential was a milestone in Russell Crowe’s career, marking his first Best Picture nod at the Academy Awards, of 6 and counting. (He likes to tell people he’d rather be congratulated on playing Bud White in a movie the cool kids dig, than hear fans shout “Are you entertained?!” at him across the street in public.)
It’s a film you can go back to on its 20th anniversary and still feel carried away by. His brief cameo in War Games as ‘Bob White’ feels like a tongue-in-cheek fan reference, and his slapstick hit The Nice Guys (also starring Kim Bassinger!) sometimes feels like a spoof of this Hollywood classic. (It’s hard to describe any film starring Kim Bassinger without using the word ‘classic,’ isn’t it?)
This poem, based on the 52nd Psalm, is in Jack’s voice (played by the inimitable Kevin Spacey) and addressed to newly-minted detective Ed Exley (admirably played by Guy Pearce), warning him that the finesse with which he’d snagged a big promotion would rub a lot of other police officers – and significantly, Russell Crowe’s Bud White – the wrong way.
If you haven’t seen the movie yet and are thinking about it now, be warned, it should come with trigger warnings for police violence, racially motivated police violence, and police-involved murder. This is a film that doesn’t pull any punches, and it lays the hidden curriculum in police work out on the table in plain view. I can see experts on police reform screening this film at a seminar to just talk about the implications for reformers – what sort of cultural landscape they’re up against, both in police lore and in pop culture’s reflection of it.
Sure, you can boast of the Night Owl.
But no one forgets what you’ve done.
Politics may be your forte,
but to them, you’re a back-stabbing fraud.
You want laurels, and at any price;
street justice means nothing to you.
You mince out your ten-dollar words,
and make scapegoats of men who bleed blue.
Bud White won’t rest til he’s stopped you;
he’ll beat the bushes for cause,
and he’ll root you out, badge and all.
The righteous will marvel to see it,
the rank and file cops will laugh last.
A man who forgets the blue line
cannot count on his badge in the end;
perhaps you believe in your wits,
but mere cleverness won’t save you then.
Our brotherhood shelters the bitter,
as trees shelter snakes in the grass.
One trusts in no power beyond us.
Today, we acclaim your good name:
early promise, a fine legacy.
Tomorrow, though, Bud White will see.