Curtis Hanson's neo-noir adaptation of the 1990 novel of the same title was a gritty tale of deceit, pride and integrity, certainly one of the decade's best whodunits. Three police officers: one sordid, one ruthless and one orthodox, set out to solve a series of crimes and murders against the backdrop of a 1950s L.A. that's riddled with vice and corruption.
As the officers dig deeper, it's suddenly revealed that the man behind everything is their own Captain Dudley Smith. His betrayal isn't just to the police department and the men who were loyally serving under him though, as Captain Smith was also forced to kill one of three investigating officers in order to cover his tracks.
Worse yet, the idea that the traitor could be the squeaky-clean Captain Smith doesn't occur to the viewer until he starts shooting his own men. The very immediate transition that occurs effectively takes the film's most morally balanced character and reveals that he's actually its most reprehensible one - a man who lies, deceives and kills men, even those who look up to him, for petty cash.