During the opening act of L.A. Confidential, film historian William Luhr states the film,“explicitly condemns white racism and associates evil not with exotisized peoples from across the border but with the white power structure.” As a result, L.A. Confidential removes the credibility of Anglo-centric institutions by showing that police officers not only operate in a grey area, but a downright illegal area, contrary to that of officers in classic noirs. In noirs of the forties and fifties, police officers are typically portrayed as the epitome of good. Because of the Hays code, which censored films in Hollywood, it had to be clear to the audience who the bad guys were and who the good guys were. According to Mick LaSalle “In the case of politicians, police and judges, they could, under some circumstances, be movie villains, so long as it was clear that they were bad apples and not representative of their institutions.” As a result, only individual officers could be seen as villains, not the entire department. In order to avoid this distinction and get around the code, noirs of this period used the private investigator in place of the police detective. Because the private investigator was not considered real law enforcement, filmmakers were free to make these characters more questionable than their officer counterparts as the code would not cite the film for negatively portraying social institutions. This adhesion to telling the story through the private investigator is completely absent from L.A. Confidential, as the film whole-heartedly explores the idea of the entire Los Angeles Police Department as being corrupt. In the opening act of the film, the audience sees Bud destroy the Christmas decorations of someone committing domestic assault, Jack take a bribe for arresting a marijuana smoker, and Ed as he is openly asked by his police chief if he is willing to beat a confession out of someone. Right off the bat, all three of the central lead police officers have their morality checked and two of the three choose to break the law without a second question. If a film did this in the fifties, the Hays code would instantly reject the film and it would never see the light of day, but in post Rodney King America, audiences are aware that the LAPD is not a bastion of proper morals. Because of the highly publicized case of Rodney King, a black motorist, being assaulted by police officers in Los Angeles in 1991, by the time L.A. Confidential was released in 1997, the idea of corrupt police was no longer new to film audiences. Allowing the film to explore a story about morally corrupt police detectives.
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