A fearless Secret Service agent will stop at nothing to bring down the counterfeiter who killed his partner.A fearless Secret Service agent will stop at nothing to bring down the counterfeiter who killed his partner.A fearless Secret Service agent will stop at nothing to bring down the counterfeiter who killed his partner.
Those who've seen Friedkin's earlier genre entry "The French Connection" shouldn't be caught off guard by his often ruthless tactics here, as he's back in the familiar territory of cops and criminals. Nor should those who survived his muscular "Sorcerer"--another unsung hero of an action piece--be unprepared for the director's inability to hide the more challenging (and dreadful) sides of male conflict. Even the disturbing "Cruising", where no attempts were made by the film to explain its ugly corkscrew of a story, all the while summoning an atmosphere thick with dread, still suspenseful, but full of plot holes conveniently filled with leather jackets and the scariest Village-People-on-PCP-soundtrack to date, is just another Friedkin descent into Hell. The details always more than part of a whole.
It may show the surface of a genre flick, but beneath the pulsing Wang Chung soundtrack and 80s-reflective duds (no Members Only jackets appear, luckily) there is as lean and mean and taut a suspense thriller as even Don Siegel could deliver in his prime. And with an outstanding, hyper-realistic cast of then unknowns--including Chicago theater alumni William Pederson, pre-"CSI" and with even more cock to his walk, swaggering through his pursuit of a damaged counterfeiter, Willem Dafoe--the screws tighten with each and every action sequence, climaxing the building mayhem with a cathartic, freeway massacre of automotive chaos on the same scale as a "Mad Max" movie.
The characters ar caustic, the betrayals extremely violent, the music pounding, the ending, in particular, is a departure from the Gerald Petievich novel, the author, himself, a retired U.S. Treasury agent writing an even bleaker resolution to the problem of two unstable detectives at odds with each other, losing their sanity, and finding no comfort in their escalating criminal misbehavior. "To Live And Die In LA" marks a significant and welcome departure within such an oversaturated genre, the buddy cop movie. It refuses to soften its blows or coddle its audience, showing instead dangerous, volatile situations being taken serious. Brutally serious.
Nonetheless, for all its nihilistic tone, captured in parched images of a city populated by thugs, thieves, and sociopathic criminals, "To Live And Die In LA" is like a breath of fresh smog.
- Oct 10, 2002