True Confessions


Action / Crime / Drama

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 73%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Spilled 54%
IMDb Rating 6.4 10 5887


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September 28, 2014 at 08:13 PM



Robert De Niro as Father Des Spellacy
Robert Duvall as Det. Tom Spellacy
Burgess Meredith as Msgr. Seamus Fargo
Cyril Cusack as Cardinal Danaher
720p 1080p
808.74 MB
23.976 fps
1hr 48 min
P/S 2 / 0
1.64 GB
23.976 fps
1hr 48 min
P/S 2 / 2

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by GulyJimson ([email protected]) 10 / 10

"For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his soul?"

Ulu Grosbard's "True Confessions" scripted by John Gregory Dunne and Joan Dideon from his novel of the same name is a masterful film, one of the most under-rated movies of the nineteen-eighties. It's an exquisite character study, whose themes deal with corruption, the seduction of power, Catholic guilt, remorse and finally the need for absolution. Robert De Niro is Desmond Spellacy, an ambitious Monsignor of an Catholic Archdiocese in Los Angeles, and Robert Duvall is his brother Tom, a middle-aged hardboiled LAPD detective, investigating the brutal murder of a young would be actress. Both have a strongly developed sense of Catholic sin that binds them even when their contrasting personalities conflict. It is their scenes together, with all that desperately needs to be said and yet is not, despite the love they have for each other, that makes this one of the most brilliantly acted films of its time. While Los Angeles of 1947 is beautifully recreated, many critics misconstrued the film at the time of its release as being a latter day film noir murder mystery. It is not. The solving of the "Black Dahlia" style murder is only incidental to the plot. Central are the relationships between many of the characters and the victim, and how those relationships led to her death.

The film opens sixteen years after the murder in 1963. Duvall, retired from the force, visits his brother who was transfered to a threadbare parish in the desert years earlier because of the scandal. "I'm going to die, Tommy." Des tells him. "The arteries to the heart are shot." The scene then dissolves to 1947 to a magnificent cathedral with Des presiding over the wedding of Jack Amsterdam's daughter. Jack is a powerful construction contractor with a lifetime of misdeeds, now a pillar of the Catholic community and trying to buy his way into heaven by building Catholic schools. The dying Amsterdam (Charles Durning) taints all he comes in contact with, and personifies corruption, literally bringing it into the church, disrupting the ceremony with his incessant coughing while his daughter is already several months pregnant out of wedlock. The relationship between Amsterdam and Desmond will be a contentious point with the brothers. Unknown to Jack, years earlier Tom had acted as bag man for his payoffs to Vice and though busted for it was not indicted. His attempts to put Des straight about Jack are met with irritation and an unwillingness to hear the truth, because of his ambition to succeed the aging Cardinal, (Cyril Cusack) an appointment of which Jack has some say.

Jack's influence is felt even at LAPD. "Does he make you nervous, Frank?" Tom asks Frank Crotty (Kenneth Macmillan) after his slightly corrupt partner (he cheerfully accepts payoffs from local Chinese businessmen) insists that Amsterdam, despite, "Banging her", had nothing to do with the murder. Jack's hypocrisy, (he is made Catholic Layman of the year) and his disregard for the lives he destroys, (Brenda, one of his hookers (Rose Gregorio) commits suicide after Jack refuses to see her) will goat Tom to bring him in, having uncovered evidence it was Amsterdam who introduced the victim to the pornographer, who murdered her. Unfortunately Des also knew the victim, albeit only in passing. Jack's liaison with the church, Dan Campion, (Ed Flanders) is also facing ruin from the scandal that will ensue, (he was the first to have a sexual tryst with the victim) and tries to get Des to stop Tom's investigation, informing him that she was the hitchhiker they picked up on their way back from Santa Anita and if they go down Des will go with them. "You knew her too, Monsignor." "I knew her." Des replies. "You f**ked her."

Finally the film returns to 1963. For years Tom has carried the guilt that he ruined his brother's life and he needs his forgiveness. "It must have been hard, Des. It's my fault...I'm sorry." "No, Tommy you were my salvation, actually. You made me remember things I had forgotten. I thought I was someone I wasn't." Des consoles Tom he is unafraid of dying, that, "My bags are packed." Then in what they both know will be the last time the two brothers again attempt to connect. Both good yet touched by the same corruption: the sin of pride for Tom, ambition for Des, and both needed forgiveness. Reaffirming the love between them despite all that has happened, Des leads Tom to the plot he has set aside for himself and he hopes one day for Tom where they both may rest safe from worldly temptations. It is one of the most moving moments in the film. Requiescat in pace.

Reviewed by Robert D. Ruplenas 8 / 10


I had seen this excellent film when it was first released over 20 years ago. I had forgotten about it completely and came across it on the mystery channel recently. When it first came out I recall that no less a personage than William F. Buckley - not normally in the film reviewing business - raved about it.

Having just seen it again, I am astonished at what a superb film this is, and that I could have forgotten it. Consider the credits - Joan Didion as writer, and Robert Duvall, Robert deNiro, Charles Durning and and Burgess Meredith.

Those expecting simply a crime story will be disappointed, for the horrific murder that is the centerpiece of the movie is nothing more than, in Hitchcock's term, a 'McGuffin' on which to hang a richly human tale of corruption, guilt, brotherly conflict and devotion, and redemption. The portrayal of the necessary compromises that even good institutions - e.g. the church - must make to exist and operate in the world is as good a portrayal of the essential sinfulness of the human condition as any. In fact I feel that it is impossible for anyone without at least some semblance of religious sensibility to appreciate the true character of this movie.

The period setting and flavor is excellent and the production values are superb. Contrary to viewers who were bored I could not tear myself away from the screen.

This one is truly an overlooked and forgotten - dare I use an overworked term? - masterpiece.

Reviewed by budmassey ([email protected]) 10 / 10

Quite simply, the finest crime drama ever.

This story is somewhat loosely based on the story of Elizabeth Short, widely known as the Black Dahlia. For decades the mystery of her death plagued the LAPD., and, despite the gruesome denouement in True Confessions, the killer of the Black Dahlia was never found.

The murder mystery was dramatized in a novel by James Ellroy, perhaps better known for the more successful, though in many ways definitely inferior, L.A. Confidential. In 2005 a somewhat low budget adaptation was made with a present day setting, and most recently a Brian De Palma film, regarding which, a must miss, was released, based on Ellroy's novel and starring Canadian Mia Kirshner in the title role, along with the likes of Scarlett Johansson, Josh Hartnett, and Hillary Swank.

Despite all this attention, imitators will be hard pressed to match the desolate and subdued brilliance of this telling of the popular mystery, owing in no small measure to the immensely talented cast. DeNiro's portrayal of Monsignoir Spellacy, an Irish priest with a decidedly human side, is positively stunning, in the manner of DeNiro's other historic performances of the era. Duvall, as his flawed but well intentioned brother and LAPD detective, renders what may be the finest performance of his long and illustrious career.

Most of the period references will not be appreciated by today's movie viewer, but the zeitgeist is beautifully captured. The reality of the characters is stunning, even though they are necessarily stylized to a large extent. The tone, pace, and style of the movie are sharply reminiscent of The Godfather, although True Confessions relies much less on violence and noise, and more on character and plot.

Central to the story is the uneasy relationship between an ambitious priest and his hard-boiled detective brother. The two clash over scattered entanglements that reach deep into the LAPD, the Catholic church, and the wealthy and elite LA community. When events and evidence surrounding the mutilated corpse of a would-be actress begin to tighten the noose around a small and corrupt group that spans all these borders, the relationship of the brothers becomes increasingly strained.

Institutions of wealth, power and influence are exposed to the increasingly unforgiving glare of reality. The scope of the story is epic, but the treatment is intimate. The combination is breathtaking.

Scattered about the edges of this subtle and majestically paced masterpiece is a complex thought provoking mystery, but be warned. The story that unfolds is not an easy one to watch. Avoiding a trite ending, the film instead seems to fade into an uneasy, but inevitable, twilight, in which defeat, loss and resignation replace the ambitions and illusions of youth.

Despite the grisly and disturbing events of the story, and notwithstanding the epic tragedy of the final act, True Confessions is, ultimately, an uplifting story about redemption through adversity. The final scene has a huge emotional payoff, but only if you have invested in the story from the beginning.

Standouts in the magnificent supporting cast include Charles Durning, as a fading influence peddler, and the incomparable Rose Gregorio as a burned out madam known to, but abandoned by, all. And one cannot fail to mention the amazingly sensitive portrayal by Burgess Meredith of DeNiro's mentor, father confessor, and, in many ways, eventual savior, Father Fargo.

All in all, this is, quite simply, the finest crime drama ever, rich with performances so brilliant, so masterful, that you will be left speechless, even after many viewings, which is, of course, the only way to appreciate so complex and subtle a masterpiece. I recently got the widescreen DVD version, and can once again experience True Confessions as I remember it; delicate, moving, brilliant and thought-provoking, as well as in its proper aspect ratio.

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