The film takes place around 1950
and centers around the Hat Squad, a special group of
four L.A. cops who work independently, reporting
only to the commissioner. The four guys would tool
around all day in a really shiny art deco 1949 Buick
Roadmaster convertible, and earned their name by
never removing their hats in the car, even when they
sat in the back seat and sped through the desert
with the top down.
So I still want to know one thing about The Hat
Squad. How do they keep their hats on?
The viewer is constantly torn between positive
feelings and repugnance for them because although
they try to do good, they trample on the U.S.
Constitution while doing so. Their favorite method
to dispose of mobsters is to take them up Mulholland
Drive to a cliff which they have dubbed "Mullholland
Falls," and push them down the steep embankment.
In the course of a murder investigation, they run
into forces even more powerful and even more corrupt
than they are, various agents of the Federal
government who treat the Hat Dudes as cavalierly as
the Hat Guys themselves treat gangsters. In fact, it
is difficult for the Hat Squad to gain any moral
high ground over the corrupt Feds because they are
all doing the same kinds of lawless things. The head
of the Hat Squad (the Top Hat?) ends up
investigating the death of a woman he loved. The
coroner tells him that it seems that the victim
"fell off a cliff." Since the Top Hat has made many
people disappear in the same manner, he seems to be
getting a very painful dose of karma.
This is a pretty cool movie. It has a contrived and
artificial plot, the Achilles heel of most crime
thrillers, but the mood, atmosphere, and photography
provide some excellent moments. The only thing that
really bothered me about the film was that a major
point was left unresolved. Nick Nolte, as the tough
L.A. detective who heads up the Hat Squad, gets into
a pissing contest with a local FBI guy (a lesser
Baldwin). The Fed tries to put some pressure on
Nolte by getting a search warrant on his house,
tearing it apart at a time when Nolte's wife was
sure to be home, and Nolte was sure to be at work.
Nolte retaliates by finding the Fed and beating him
nearly to death. Near the end of the movie, the L.A.
police chief gets a call from J. Edgar Hoover, and
asks to see Nolte in his office. Nolte says "fuck
it," and goes off to do what he's gotta do, as movie
mavericks always do. When all the other plot threads
have been resolved, there is no mention of how the
LAPD was able to appease the wrath of J. Edgar, and
I really wanted to see how that would play out.
I looked at two versions, but there is no essential
difference between the nude scenes, except a
slightly different tint. The full screen version was
produced with a full "pan and scan" of the movie
rather than by using the full original frame, so it
never shows any additional flesh.