To Live and Die in L.A. (William Friedkin, 1985, USA)

While largely panned and ignored by audiences at the time of its release, To Live and Die in L.A. has since undergone a critical re-appraisal. While the late William Friedkin is best known for his two iconic films of the 1970s - The French Connection and The Exorcist - many cite his trio of cult 70s/80s films - Sorcerer (1977), Cruising (1980), and To Live and Die in L.A. (1985) - as his best work. Like the two earlier films, To Live and Die in L.A. is a bold and idiosyncratic film, from its harsh violence to its gorgeous Robby Muller cinematography, to its excellent soundtrack by - of all groups - Wang Chung.

The film feels very indebted to the works of Michael Mann, though Mann didn't rise to prominence until later (interestingly enough, William Peterson - star of To Live - would star in Mann's Manhunter one year later). Petersen plays Secret Service agent Richard Chance, who is on a mission to take down counterfeiter and artist Rick Masters (Willem Dafoe). This is one of Dafoe's first roles, and it is quite easy to see why he became one of the most well-known character actors of his generation - he oozes a cool menace throughout the film.

There are many things to love about the film on a technical level. The scenes of the money counterfeiting are oddly hypnotic. The car chase is certainly one of the best put to film. And the film's surprise finale is a bold choice. While the film does lag in certain parts, it is nevertheless an iconic effort from Friedkin. The Wang Chung soundtrack is still excellent today. The film also features a great supporting role from John Pankow as Richard Chance's partner John Vukovich, who spends much of the movie freaking out. 



Popular Posts