To Live and Die in L.A. (1985) Poster

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Raw, brilliant crime thriller
fertilecelluloid21 January 2004
When Friedkin went "back on the streets" in 1985 to make TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A., he made a classic that will endure and that perfectly captures its 80's milieu.

I don't understand these idiots who complain how a film is "dated" by its music. Of course a film is "dated" by its specific elements, but so what. This superb film, which has an amazingly kinetic Wang Cheung score, is about a time (the mid-eighties) and place (L.A.) that is now history, and it is a punishing document.

The film works on many levels. Yes, it is about counterfeiting and superficial (re: counterfeit) relationships. It is about greed, survival, justice and morality. It is also about human beings using and laying to waste other human beings.

These powerful ingredients weave their way through a police procedural/action thriller plot that never stops to catch its breath and is pure cinema.

Willem Dafoe is totally engrossing as the film's villain, while William Peterson delivers a highly focused, tough turn. Dean Stockwell is also a stand-out as a crook lawyer and real cop Jack Hoar is quietly spectacular as Dafoe's mule.

And the film boasts one unbelievable car chase that has not been equaled since.

But LIVE AND DIE is also a film that expertly marries the visual to the aural and depicts a part of Southern California that has not been so credibly depicted before.

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Excellent Non-Stop Action And Politically Incorrect Police Story
claudio_carvalho4 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
In Los Angeles, the secret agent Richard Chance (William L. Petersen) loses his partner and friend Jim Hart (Michael Greene) in an investigation of counterfeit, two days before the retirement of Jim. The agent John Vukovich (John Pankow) is assigned to work with Chance, who is obsessed to capture Eric 'Rick' Masters (Willem Dafoe), the criminal responsible for the death of Jim. Chance risks his partner and his own career, trying to arrest Rick.

"To Live and Die in L.A" is an excellent non-stop action movie, having an excellent pacing and being a politically incorrect police story. All the characters are amoral, dirty and sordid, and it is impossible to feel sympathy for any of them. There are excellent scenes, such as the car chase in the streets of Los Angeles, or the surprising lethal shooting in the end of the story. The DVD shows a commercial alternative ending of the story, fortunately not accepted by the director William Friedkin. The unpredictable and credible end as it is makes the great difference of this outstanding movie. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Viver e Morrer em Los Angeles" ("To Live and Die in Los Angeles")
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Shamefully misunderstood by the critics
SMK-429 April 1999
One of the very best films of the 1980s this was shamefully neglected and misunderstood by the critics. The problem is: on the surface it's just like an ordinary action crime thriller (and thus won't appeal to the arthouse crowd), except that it makes it difficult to identify yourself with any of the characters. In other words: it violates its genre rules. But this very fact makes it so unpredictable and thrilling, and a proper movie as opposed to a mere genre clone.

The good guys are flawed. This isn't really new, since the mid 1960s there were plenty of flawed heroes in Westerns or police thrillers. The difference is that not only their characters are flawed, they are vulnerable, destructible, they make mistakes. And they pay for their mistakes. Similarly the villains: yes, they are formidable and glamorous, but they are not in the league of the Blofelds or Sentenzas of moviedom. They make mistakes too. And they pay too.

A surprising asset is the film music by Wang Chung, a one-hit-wonder pop obscurity of the era. Their sound perfectly melts with the cinematography, especially in the stylish opening sequence.
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Strong film
mm-3919 December 2000
This story is very 80's, and is heavily influenced by the TV show Miami Vice. The style, clothes, music, and characters reflect that time period exactly. The direction of this film gives a slick feel; where its action, style, and seedy underside all blend in well. The story could be very predictable, but with its plots twists, and the theme that follows the saying be careful when you go hunting for monster not to become one yourself gives it originality. It has some mind blowing stunts that create tension, and if you watch the film Ronin you see where they got the car chase idea from. In all this film gives a feeling of being involved in events that go too fast, too dangerous, and too twisted. Its shows what happens to the heart when the individual becomes obsessed with what he seeks. Watch this one and love it.
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A Gritty, Anti-Buddy Police Thriller With A Welcome Mean Streak
HughBennie-77710 October 2002
Another critic discussing this film accurately mentioned "being shamefully ignored" as an injustice this 1985 William-Friedkin masterpiece suffered upon its release. And it was not only the critics who failed to notice its worth. For some reason, the public stayed away in droves as well, this as myself and my friend were practically organizing tours to the theater, introducing people to the film who, weened on "48 Hours", "Miami Vice" and yet to experience the Abbott & Costello hijinks of the "Lethal Weapon" series, had little concept of what a below-the-belt, impeccably crafted cop movie could be. Or would turn into.

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.
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a litmus test - possible spoilers
ThingyBlahBlah323 August 2004
Warning: Spoilers
David Mamet once explained the difference between art and entertainment. Entertainment, he said, reinforces what you already know, and tells you that you're right. Art, on the other hand, suggests that what you know is wrong, and that your beliefs might not be correct.

In "To Live and Die in L.A.", director William Friedkin inverts, twists, and eventually demolishes the standard "Cop seeks vengeance for his partner's murder (with 3 days til retirement!)" formula. The viewer learns that 1) not every law enforcement agent always has the public good in mind, 2) real people generally aren't either 'good' or 'evil' all the time, 3) if a cop (or in this case, Secret Service agent) takes the law into his own hands, he WILL pay for it one way or another, and 4) whether you're a cop or a criminal, things usually don't go according to plan.

This information is directly opposed to what we've learned from countless action movies of the 1980s. Watching the "Lethal Weapon" movies, or anything with Schwarznegger, Stallone or Seagal, suggests that it's fun and entertaining when cops take the law into their own hands. Notice that no matter how much damage Riggs & Murtaugh cause, they can laugh about it with the captain later, and the world is always a better place for it. And no matter how many people's civil rights are trampled, and no matter how illegal the cops' activities are, everything always works out in the end, and the only people who get hurt are the "bad" people.

"To Live and Die in L.A." shows what would happen if Riggs & Murtaugh tried their antics in the real world. While Martin Riggs' arrogant recklessness is heroic and hilarious, Richard Chance's arrogant recklessness ruins a lot of lives, not least his own. When it's over, justice has hardly been served, and even though the bad guys are dead, there's no hint that L.A. is a better place for it.

With all these "Lethal Weapon" comparisons, I should make it clear that "To Live and Die in L.A." came out in 1985, two years before the first LW movie.

All that stuff aside, this is one rock-solid movie. Willem Dafoe uses his character's eccentricities to create (for my money) one of the best villains in cinematic history, even if the movie doesn't see Rick Masters quite that way. William Peterson is incredible and brings a lot of depth to his performance; I'm not one to critique someone else's opinion, but I don't understand the users who complained that he's "wooden." Chance is an egomaniacal, scheming nutjob with a death wish; he really believes that he's above life and death, and it never crosses his mind that he might be wrong. Peterson brings this all out.

Dean Stockwell is in his element, playing a scumbag who knows everything about everyone. John Pankow was a wonderful surprise, bringing all sorts of conflicting and confused ideas to Vukovich, which is perfectly appropriate. When things really go wrong, he goes to pieces. Again, some users complained that he was overacting, but ask yourself how YOU'D behave. Nobody ever gives Darlanne Fleugel much credit, but she's terrific here. There's a whole lot going on in Ruth's head, and in many ways, she's the central character to this whole play. Pay attention. And I'd be remiss in my duties if I didn't point out Steve James and Jack Hoar as two of Masters' criminal associates. They're both tough, intimidating, and surprisingly multi-dimensional.

And I haven't even mentioned 1) the car chase to end all car chases, 2) the copious amount of nudity, 3) the perfect fit of Wang Chung's soundtrack with the day-glo L.A. look, even as all hell breaks loose and men confront the dark depths of their souls (huh?), and 4) a climactic shock that WILL knock you for a loop.
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slick 80s thriller
SnoopyStyle23 January 2016
Secret service agents Jimmy Hart and Richard Chance (William Petersen) thwart an Islamic terrorist during a Presidential visit. Hart has a few days left before retirement. He tries to investigate and gets killed by counterfeiter Eric Masters (Willem Dafoe). Chance vows to take him down. He gets John Vukovich (John Pankow) as his new partner. They catch Masters' delivery boy Carl Cody (John Turturro). Masters' lawyer Bob Grimes (Dean Stockwell) says Cody has to do 3 years. Chance's C.I. Ruth Lanier (Darlanne Fluegel) directs them to lawyer Max Waxman. Waxman was Cody's last stop and Masters suspects he set them up. Masters and his girlfriend Bianca Torres (Debra Feuer) go to demand repayment and ends up killing him. Chance steals Waxman's black book as he becomes more morally corrupt in order to take down Masters.

William Friedkin delivers a slick thriller of amoral cops and immoral everyone else. I love Dafoe's montage of counterfeiting. Friedkin delivers so many great action scenes. The wrong way car chase is the highlight and probably the height of his action work. It is so slick and so stylized that I accept the avant-garde artsy stuff. It fits into the movie. It also has an early bungee jump on film. This is one of the most fun 80s action thriller filled with relatively unknown actors at the time. I can't help but think of Michael Mann who was showrunning Miami Vice TV show at the time.
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Style to spare
Leofwine_draca7 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
A decent cop thriller from William Friedkin. Maybe by this stage it's not as good as the classic THE FRENCH CONNECTION but it still packs a punch and is an effective slice of sun-drenched noir with a very slick, stylish and visual MIAMI VICE feel to it. William Petersen is a good choice for volatile lead - even better in MANHUNTER - and Willem Dafoe is of course exemplary as the villain of the piece. There are good twists and turns and character darkness along the way, alongside a car chase that stands out (although isn't personally one of the best for me). A fine little film overall.
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to live and die in LA
mossgrymk1 August 2021
This mid 80s neo noir is a pretty good subversion of the genre which is, when you come to think about it, exactly what a neo type film should be. William Petersen, who is usually on the bland side (thus the truncated career), is quite good as arguably the most sociopathic character in the film, a Secret Service Agent who uses his designation as a Good Guy to continually cross the line into Bad Guy territory where he literally wallows in its warm, amoral mud. And when was the last time you've seen a T Man as anything but a paragon of law and order righteousness? Try never. So, obviously, we have left the land of Dennis O'Keefe and even Clint in "Line Of Fire" far, far behind us and congrats to director William Friedkin for fully embracing this perversity and providing us with a shocking, but well earned, climax involving Petersen's depraved fed. To mention nothing of a car chase that seems to take off where "Bullitt" stops. Also congrats to cinematographer Robby Muller for pulling against the tired ethos of my hometown as soulless and ugly with shots that bring out its tawdry beauty (thinking about that twilight over the Vincent Thomas Bridge shot with the sky a pink purple and the oil drums lit up like white Christmas lights). And kudos as well to Willem Defoe for a properly creepy, skin prickling adversary. So, even though the dialogue (by Friedkin and the novelist upon whose work the film is based) tends toward the flat and one dimensional and, as evidence of this rather clunky writing, John Pankow's character change comes out of not only left but center and right fields, as well, and the music majorly sucks, this is a film that I think I'll be wanting to see again. A minus.
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Losers, all!
sc803118 July 2008
Despite a confusing (or irrelevant?) opening segment, To Live and Die in L.A. is an authentic and somewhat disturbing crime film. In fact, some of the film is so harrowing and caustic it evokes almost horror-like inspiration. As you might have heard by now, it involves one of the finest car chase scenes ever put to film.

The film follows a couple of Secret Service agents for the National Treasury as they try to track down a counterfeiter. As the movie rolls on, it becomes clear that these agents are pretty shady in the way they gleam information and that the ties between crime and justice are actually quite close. I know, it sounds like an obvious plot, but the editing, pacing, characters and twists are all pretty unexpected or original. It is not nearly as cliché as it sounds.

The downsides to the movie could be some of the aesthetic choices: the neon colors are sweet (I think) but some of the soundtrack is just too grating. You REALLY feel like you're hopped up on speed after hearing the main theme for too long. It's done by Wang Chung, but I think Tangerine Dream would've created something much more provocative. Oh well. Also, I felt like one or two characters' stories were not really concluded properly. There was a minor hang-nail or two left at the end.

But all in all, this is a solid film. Very inspired, very dark, simultaneously exciting and depressing. Seriously, this movie is way more intensely real than anything Tarantino has tried to do. It may not actually be more violent per say, but the violence itself it much more effective and the social ties are far more believable. This junk is scary.
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no-holds-barred and excellent example in unsympathetic cops and criminals story
Quinoa198424 August 2009
To Live and Die in L.A. sounds like the title of a film-noir, and it suits that the film is one of those super-harsh neo-noirs with an anti-hero secret service agent and his partner, a (somewhat?) deranged counterfeit artist, and a femme fatale or two thrown in. It's also so hard-hitting it'll put off some. It only skirts the conventions: investigation of a counterfeiter (Willem Dafoe), undercover tactics, attempts to get informants, etc. But it's also the kind of thriller where you really don't know what will happen next. Informant will play ball? Yeah right. Richard Chance's partner John will do whatever he wants? Perhaps, but not on the same level of agreement (certainly not during an insane car chase across LA). And what about the striking blonde woman in Richard Chance's life? Well, that's a whole other story that can only get so much time, if you know what I mean.

It's definitely comparable to the French Connection, and I'm sure William Friedkin would be fine with the comparisons. And, really, his film here has the a similar level of intensity to the performances - there's not one here that doesn't co Especially from Peterson, who is out to just get his adrenaline completely off the charts in some scenes, but in others he can sit calmly- scarily even- with a look or other that just suggests his character's drive to get a charge, much like the bungee jumps. Of course Dafoe here makes his breakthrough performance, right on the cusp of Platoon and Last Temptation of Christ, a skeevy and wicked but alluring turn as Masters, who when he smiles looks as though he doesn't have human teeth - which in this case is a really big help(!) But really, try and take your eyes off of Dafoe (not just here but in any performance) and you'll miss an actor who is alive and kicking even when he's just sitting back in a sauna or, on the other extreme, close to being burnt to pieces.

Also good to note are Debra Feuer, John Pankow and of course John Tuturro in supporting roles, since they all stand out as well. Friedkin, along with his actors, sets up reality as much as possible, another tie to French Connection and his work in general. When the fake money is printed its printed as it would be back in 1985. Things feel and look authentic, and shot in the most dangerous parts and areas of greater Los Angeles, including the bit of that car chase in the concrete valley where one might expect actual gangs to pop out on camera as opposed to the characters with guns. And Friedkin's got an excellent, albeit unlikely cinematographer with Robby Mueller (to my slight disappointment he didn't shoot the car chase, though he didn't know how from a background of Wim Wenders). The film has realistic set-pieces, but also some surreal ones too with that theater group or just the noir-look in general, red and green lights come out on characters, warm contrasts, and the slightest (or darkest) of shadows. You want a gritty but artistic look, you got it here.

Oh, the film is dated, don't get me wrong, reader. This is *very* 1980's when it comes to the music and some of the cars (well, with Dafoe's car anyway) and the hair and some of the clothes. Actually, the music more than anything threw me off - picture if suddenly in French Connection they threw in hippie music. Doesn't quite fit, does it? But if you can look past this, then the rest of the picture, with its uncompromised ending and gut-churning violence, it delivers the goods. Especially, I should note, the big car chase. It's almost as if Friedkin realized, 'hey, I've done this before already, I knocked it out of the park then, won an Oscar, now what do I do?' And the answer, naturally, was to make a bat-s*** crazy car chase. I'm not saying it's one of the all-time greats, but it's certainly in a top-tier of the craziest, like Blues Brothers style only meant to be taken seriously. And I loved every second of it.
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A film that was ahead of its time
4-Kane31 December 2005
Admittedly, To Live and Die in L.A. was not well-received by many critics when it was released in 1985. I believe it was because the movie was ahead of its time. Back then, one would have naturally expected an action movie that clearly defines the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. But it would be different in this film.

Without giving too much away, the main cops who are supposedly good guys are unethical. Richard Chance makes it clear that he doesn't care how he would catch the money counterfeiter Rick Masters. But as he tries to attain this goal, he runs into trouble, including a car chase that leads to a drive down the wrong side of the Los Angeles freeway! (Don't ever try that stunt!)

The way I see it, To Live and Die in L.A. is an underrated classic.
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Most Underrated Crime Movie Of The 80's
RonellSowes15 March 2022
The fast paced, very 80's style of this movie is quite the contrast to the somber almost documentary mood of William Friedken's more famous crime film The French Connection. Yet what parallels in both these films is the authenticity and grittiness as well as an intense car chase. Its clear he was attempting at recreating if not outdoing the most famous scene in his career, and I won't say he did, but he certainly gives it a run for its money.

The film doesn't go far enough to be a genre breaker(a film that's just an all-around classic) but it pushes the limit on what a movie like this can be like, making To Live and Die in LA probably the most underrated crime movie of the decade.
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Excellent pacing and effective marriage of action and music
mmasv5 February 2005
Worthy of the director of "French Connection," the pace of this set- in-LA action thriller immediately draws the view in and never lets up. A car chase in the best traditions of "Bullitt" and of Friedkin's own "French Connection" is centers the action, but the motivation of a rogue agent obsessed with the death of his partner, and clearly with his own death, are well- and credibly- drawn. The most sympathetic character in the story is not one of the principals. It is a female informer. An ex-con at the mercy of those on both sides of the law, she is callously exploited by all. Her feelings for Agent Chance are more implied than explicit, but they are believable as is his indifference to her as a person. This riveting film never lets your attention wander. Thanks to Friedkin, we are told, we are given a credible ending to this taut, tightly- wound thriller. An under-exposed, under-appreciated work; excellent for the genre.
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A Great, Little Known Gem!
cinebuff-317 April 2004
There are 'Cop films'. 'Buddy' films and 'Partner' films. This one is definitely in the 'Partner' category. With the same kind of magic that Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider shared in Freidken's 'The French Connection'... I just picked up and watched 'To Live And Die In L.A.' on DVD and had my socks knocked off for the umpteenth time!... Those expecting a standard, cookie cutter 'Cops & Robbers' film should go elsewhere. Friedken pulled out all the stops on this one! Taking a small budget and a clutch of then No-Name actors. Planting them in the sections of L.A. no one ever sees. And allowed them free rein to improvise, romp and play. And then, create some of their best work!.. William Petersen plays Secret Service Agent Rick Chance. Who hunts Artists/Conterfeiter/Con, Eric Masters. Played with clever, evil glee by Willem Dafoe, with a passion just short of Psychosis... The segments showing Dafoe making 'Funny Money' are as detailed and astounding as the scenes of him violently tidying up loose ends!... Toss in great location shots. A few startling chases. And a 'conscience' for Petersen, played by John Pankow as John Vukovich. A three-piece, by-the-book agent. Who follows his partner through the Counterfiet World of assorted crime, mayhem, and dirty deals. Into Dante's Inferno. Only to fully evolve in the last fifteen minutes of the film. That must be seen to believe!...
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Vintage 80's cop drama
praveen777 November 2009
Somehow, I just love the feel and styles of the '80's. The music, the fashion statements, the hair styles and the movies. Maybe it's just because I was a kid in the Eighties, and the days of your childhood are mostly what you have a longing for.

So, the other day, when I started to watch 'To Live and Die in LA', I knew there was a very small chance that I would dislike the movie. And I liked it. From the opening sequence soundtrack to the style and swagger of the lead character, to the ladies. The movie is about a daredevil cop, Chance, who likes a bit of BASE jumping along with his job. His partner is about to retire from duty in a few days, but gets killed while trying to track down a lead on counterfeit money being produced in LA. The counterfeiter, Rick Masters (William Dafoe in a wonderfully wild and wicked role) shoots him down and leaves him to the dead. Chance decides he wants to track down the killer no matter what the methods used. He gets assigned with the seemingly by the book, nervous Vukovich. However, as Vukovich starts to work with Chance and trusts him, he slowly begins to come around to his way of thinking. The rest of the movie deals with how Chance and Vukovich, with the help of Chance's ultra sexy informer, tracks down Masters. The climax is something worth waiting for, as it hits the viewer unexpectedly and suddenly.

The acting is good enough, though not great. The look and feel of the movie reminded me a bit of Michael Mann's Miami Vice TV series in the eighties. Though William Peterson was good as Chance, I did wonder how it would have been if the more suave and sophisticated Don Johnson had played the lead. Oh, and there a pretty explicit sex scene between Chance and his informer as well.

All in all, a pretty good watch for anyone who likes cop movies, and a must watch for the fans of the eighties.
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Two Women
tedg27 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Making a story that connects is a balancing act that rarely succeeds. You have to use the machinery of storytelling to engage, taking advantage of the power of the devices you select. But at the same time, you have to conceal that machinery. This is a contract between filmmaker and viewer. Often the qualities are relatively intangible, like the way a conversation is visually framed or a line paced. Or an erotic scene seductively constructed.

But sometimes the machinery is more overt. Many of Hitchcock's masterpieces don't work for me now because the stage is obvious many older action films don't grab now because the action effects are clearly bogus.

Here is a film that once was terrific. The car chase wasn't a collection of clichés, and was thrilling. The bad boy cops as unglamorous thugs was unusual. The various analogies of counterfeit were arguably artistic. The score was mainstream and not at all distracting. None of this is true now, and this allows us to notice other details of the craft.

There is a seriously unimaginative staging of conversations whose only purpose is to explain to us. The dialog is stilted and silly in places, as if an assistant wrote right before shooting. Many of the actors seem not to have been given coherent characters.

And yet, within this story, one plot device has mellowed. The overall anchor concepts in the film revolve around duals and fakes. Two of this and that, real and not, compliant and not. Entanglements between pairs and tensions. We have two cops, newly assigned buddies and the main focus is on them. Ho hum. In the background are two women. Their characters are not trivial, and over time these have become more incisive and for me overtook the entire movie in spite of testosterone-driven noise.

One is the counterfeiter's girlfriend and partner. Tall, thin, explosive red hair and cool execution of plans, she is played by Mickey Rourke's then wife, when image and roles mattered to him before drugs. She is presented as the obsessive object of the counterfeiter, who is truly an artist driven to paint her. He creates impressive images of her that aren't quite up to her presentation of self, so he equally obsessively burns them. His anchor in life is her — not her but a fabrication of a woman she is able to sustain.

She, we find, is a performance artist and we see here a few times in this mode: extreme abstraction in staging, makeup, movement, lighting. The effect is powerful, this folded acting a woman within the acting of a woman. It is one of the best roles of that decade, submerged.

Another woman: thin, always on the verge of panic. A victim. She works as an arranger in a strip club. A felon for what should be a minor sex offense. She is on parole and is being exploited by our bad cop for both sex and information. The sex is coerced. The woman is his reluctant slave, and yet the connection is deeper and more genuine in her desperation than anything our cool redhead can muster. The end of the movie — a rather overlong coda — has our cold conniver driving off with an even more abstract version of her pretense at being a female. The slave? She simply is an inheritance for the next guy.

A movie that has decomposed a bit, allowing this inner muscle of taught/taut womanness to be revealed.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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An Underrated Crime Thriller
Aly20020 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
William Friedkin of "The Exorcist" fame went back to his crime film roots with this well executed action thriller based on a former LAPD agent's book of the same name.

The story is relatively simple at the start as the film has two officers (William Petersen and John Pankow) of the U.S. Secret Service out to catch a notorious counterfeiter (Willem Dafoe) who killed the partner of one of the agents. The narrative takes several twists and turns as the agents race to take down their target, but keep learning along the way that it won't be an easy task to catch a smart criminal mastermind without prices being paid for their dedication.

As the heroes (or in Petersen's character's case, an anti-hero), Petersen and Pankow display a unique chemistry that keeps their characters on opposite sides of the same case; Petersen's Chance will go beyond the law to catch their counterfeiter prey while Pankow's Vukovich is the by-the-books agent who soon learns he must go outside the rules to get the man they are after. The show primarily belongs to William Petersen's Chance as he is the driving force for the action since he is the one whose partner is killed early in the film. Petersen oozes a brash personality that counters the more reserved and just Vukovich that John Pankow plays.

Playing the film's villain in one of his earliest starring roles is the ever charismatic and talented Willem Dafoe as the calculating and brutal Rick Masters. He is the counterfeiting mastermind Chance and Vukovich are desperately chasing, but Masters is always a step ahead. From brutally executing Chance's first partner, Jim Hart, to his masterful counterfeiting operation to even more crueler slayings for anyone who double-crosses him, Dafoe keeps a sinister charm to his portrayal of Masters and conveys his quiet intelligence with his trademark soft-spoken voice.

Friedkin helped write the film's screenplay with some assistance from source writer, Gerald Petevich, and Petevich's brother. The director quite easily has control of their script which is clear from what is shown on-screen. However this does not dumb down the tension of the film as the clock ticks down the days and time of the action.

If you want a pot-boiling action film that will have on the edge of your seat, I recommend this film.
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Competent crime thriller.
rmax3048234 May 2006
It's a genre movie but the director, William Friedkin, knows how to put them together effectively.

We have two Secret Service agents. One (Peterson) is a reckless rule-defying loose cannon; his partner (Pankow) is more principled, or uptight, if you like. Peterson bungee jumps from high bridges. During a chase, when Peterson is laughing, Pankow is grimacing with anxiety.

Their prey is a master counterfeiter (DaFoe). DaFoe is like neither of the cops. He's extremely organized. He tells the truth and fulfills his promises. He's an artist, not only with engraved plates but with a paint brush. A man of his word. He really only has one kink -- he's a remorseless cold-blooded killer when it's in his interests to be one. And when he gets burned up, he REALLY gets burned up. DaFoe loses in the end, but then everyone loses, one way or another.

The best-known scene (justifiably) is the car chase that takes place in the wrong direction, against traffic, on the Long Beach Freeway. It is gripping, precisely choreographed, and must have been dangerous to shoot. These are not computer-generated images either. That eighteen wheeler we see jackknifing among dozens of whirling cars is a real eighteen wheeler jackknifing among dozens of whirling cars. No exciting music during the pursuit, only the sound of engines in overdrive and vehicle horns shrieking alarms in the key of F. The high-speed pursuit by this time, though, was not an original idea. It was original with "Bullitt" (1968), and that's still the best example. After "Bullitt" this car chase -- ALL car chases -- were variations on a theme of director Peter Yates, a former racing car driver himself, and Philip D'Antonio.

Friedkin has directed with a maximum of speed and action scenes, none of them gratuitous. Lots of shots of people running full tilt along city streets. Plenty of violence, although it isn't wallowed in. It's not a Bruce Willis action/comedy. There are few dull moments to bore the kids.

Really, this is one of the better efforts of Friedkin and his editor. For instance, there is a shot between DaFoe's burning the funny money and Peterson's meeting with the judge. It's simply a high-angle shot of a dozen pedestrians walking through the plaza in front of a government building. But Friedkin frames it so that, from this distance, the equidistant palm trees loom over the people and throw lengthy shadows across the tiles of the pavement. The composition is impressive.

If the performances don't shoot out the lights, they get the job done in a most professional manner. Peterson is physically nimble and obviously does most of his own stunts. He played football at school, and it shows. And the parts are complex too. The bad guys don't fit easily into any stereotypes, except one ham-handed heavy who spits on his victims after blowing their heads off. The good guys are hardly saintly. Peterson's character has a snitch working for him, Darlanne Fluegel, a tall thin sexy blond. He's keeping her out of jail, and in return she feeds him information and certain other perquisites. When she turns to him for comfort or understanding, he is off on some other planet, frantically chattering on about basketball while she weeps. "What would you do if I STOPPED giving you information?", she asks Peterson at one point. "I'd revoke your parole and send you back to the joint," he answers tonelessly. "Would you do that? Would you REALLY do that?" He turns and walks out the door without a word. He's really a mean guy. Mean to everyone, including his new partner, Pankow.

Three particularly enjoyable features of the film. The location shooting and photography by Robby Muller is great. He manages to make smoggy San Pedro look almost artistic with its oil refineries and its multitude of distant floodlights providing patterns of globular glow. "The stars are God's eyes," says Fluegel to Peterson, who disagrees with her. One advantage of living in San Pedro is access to Papadakis Tavern. Great Greek food. Tell Nick I sent you.

Wang Chung's theme music is simple but it zaps you with its percussion and its simple, pounding succession of four electronic notes. Carl Orff with syncopation. A distant train rushing through a flat landscape is introduced by a passage for what sounds like Peruvian nose flutes or shakuhachis.

Then there is the performance of Dean Stockwell as an expensive and expert criminal defense lawyer. He underplays the part, but he's just fine. Our two heroes have just stolen fifty thousand dollars from the FBI and Pankow explains the situation to Stockwell, who gives him a few words of advice and adds, "Of course I can't be directly involved in this." "How much would it cost for you to be indirectly involved?" asks Pankow. Stockwell looks up at him, puffs a cigar, and answers smoothly, "Fifty thousand dollars." Nobody laughs. Friedkin knows how to lay out a funny line.
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Cracking stuff
steve_b335 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Billy Friedkins's brilliant cop thriller from 1985 - William Peterson(of CSI fame)plays Richard Chance a hotshot Secret Service agent hot on the trail of master forger Rick Masters(a menacing Willem Dafoe) who has murdered Chance's partner and friend 3 days before he was due to retire.As a consequence he is now partnered by John Vucocvich(John Pankow) who is as straight by the book as Chance is a maverick. Chance will stop at nothing to get Masters - he bends the rules,steals evidence and after his request to raise money to buy Masters forged notes decides to take matters into his own hands. He is also having a sexual relationship with Ruth(Darlene Fluogel)who feeds him information - in this case about a drug dealer who is carrying 50 Grand in cash and arrives the next day - Chance persuades Vucovich to rob the guy and use the cash to set Masters up - unfortunately the whole thing is a an FBI sting operation and both agents are soon way out of their depth. Chance decides to carry on with the operation but Vucovich's doubts grow and the fact that their actions led to the death of a Federal agent only makes his guilt even more intense.

Its an absolutely cracking movie - excellent played characters - Peterson plays Chance as someone beyond caring for anything apart from nailing Masters and Dafoe is at his reptilian best as the forger - his grin gets more and more sinister as the film unfolds.Fine support from Dean Stockwell as a slimy lawyer and the ever excellent John Tuturro as one of Masters bagmen whom gets caught and is forced to turn stoolie. The film also has a very amoral feel to it - Chance will use anyone he can to achieve his ends - he morally blackmails Vucovich to going along and his relationship with Ruth is even more dodgy - she asks him what he would do if she stopped supplying him with information(and presumably sex) - "I'll have your parole revoked and have you sent back to the joint".....

Fantastic photography by the great Robby Muller and a car chase through L.A. that ends up going down the wrong way of an 8 lane freeway adds to the films pleasures as does the use of locations around the city that you don't normally see - rail tracks,sidings,industrial landscapes and the L.A. river basin are all uses to terrific effect.It has a very '80's soundtrack by Wang Chung that fits the mood and location perfectly and its has a very bleak ending that Hollywood would have real issues with today. A key film from the 1980's - just a shame its the last great film that Friedkin made before descending into straight to video hell.....
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William, William, Willem & John
wes-connors6 July 2011
After his veteran partner is shot dead in the line of duty, "Federal agent Richard Chance (William L. Petersen) has a score to settle, and he's through playing by the rules. Whether that means blackmailing a beautiful parolee, disobeying direct orders or hurtling the wrong way down a crowded freeway, he vows to take down a murderous counterfeiter (Willem Dafoe) by any means necessary. But as the stakes grow higher, will Chance's obsession with vengeance ultimately destroy him?" descriptively asks the MGM Home Video team.

Director William Friedkin, who thrilled filmgoers in the 1970s, showed he can still pack a punch, with one of the best action thrillers of the 1980s. "To Live and Die in L.A." features the usual lot of sinfully sleazy Los Angeles characters, showing off how they can be more full frontal in the movies. The film took a chance by introducing Mr. Peterson as a star; in a noticeably ballsy performance, he was an instant anti-hero. His screen partners are fine, too. The film is paced exceptionally well, with an arresting car chase. Better run for it.

******** To Live and Die in L.A. (11/1/85) William Friedkin ~ William Petersen, Willem Dafoe, John Pankow, Dean Stockwell
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Petersen and Pankow are the worst possible actors to build a movie around
zetes6 March 2011
I'd heard some good things about this one, but it didn't do anything for me. It felt almost like a stumbling Friedkin trying to remind his audience that he once made The French Connection, and that it was awesome. Well, if you love The French Connection, To Live and Die in L.A. might work for you. I thought it was just okay, so this one feels like a cheap imitation. Friedkin ups the ante by making the law enforcement protagonists (secret service agents played by William Petersen and John Pankow) even more corrupt and gritty than the leads of The French Connection. I kind of missed the point that we weren't supposed to entirely approve of the characters there. I thought Friedkin approved of their corruption. These guys are far more obviously evil, nearly as bad as the villains of the picture. Unfortunately, they're both not only unlikeable, but boring. Hell, I could hardly remember that they were supposed to be the main characters much of the time, figuring they were just extras who wandered too close to the camera. Seriously, Petersen and Pankow have no screen presence whatsoever. Perhaps the movie might even work if they had had better leads. The bad guys are far more interesting. Willem Dafoe is the main bad guy, a murderous and crazy counterfeiter. He might as well be the hero of the picture, since pretty much only when he was on screen could I be bothered to pay attention. John Turturro and Dean Stockwell also appear as Dafoe's associates. They don't have a lot to do, but at least they have some screen presence.
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To Live and Die in L.A. 20 years later, still fresh and authentic.
lcl4428 May 2005
I saw To Live and Die in L.A. during its original theatrical release in the summer of 1985. I thought then it had the potential to eventually become regarded as one of the best cop films ever. Recently I watched it again on DVD. It absolutely holds up in every respect to its original verity and impact, and it undeniably should be regarded as one of the top ten movies of its genre, and in my opinion, one of the top two or three. What is so remarkable about William Friedkin's film is the uniformly excellent level of the performances of his cast. There is not a single portrayal on screen that is not, from first scene to last, dead on target. William Petersen as Richard Chance, an ambitious adrenaline-charged treasury agent who becomes totally obsessed with avenging his partner's murder and Willem Dafoe as Rick Masters, a fabulously wealthy yet sleazy and violent counterfeiter form the nucleus around which the film unfolds. Both actors are superb in their roles, but no less impressive is John Pankow as the new partner who approaches emotional meltdown as he gets drawn deeper and deeper into a web of illegality and violence stemming from Chance's single-minded pursuit of Masters. Also Dean Stockwell as a cynical mob lawyer in his glass tower office and John Turturro as a lowlife ex-con, each in their own way a lackey to Masters, deliver taut finely-etched portrayals that linger in the mind with their subtle impact, all the more remarkable for the relatively brief time they appear on screen. And the same can be said about Debra Feuer and Steve James in even briefer roles, Feuer as Masters' longtime girlfriend and James as a ghetto crime lord totally dependent on a constant supply of counterfeit twenty dollar bills from Masters. The richly detailed location shots within which the film's action flows, from Masters' BelAir mansion to the barrios of East Los Angeles, from Hollywood Boulevard performance art theaters to federal prison exercise yards is unflinchingly authentic, but never intrusive. And as a bonus to all this is a car chase that at least equals if not surpasses the one Friedkin directed in 1971's Best Picture Oscar winner, The French Connection.
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Riveting crime drama.
michaelRokeefe8 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Director William Friedkin sculpts the screenplay of Gerald Petievich's novel. After his partner is killed days away from retirement. Secret Service agent Richard Chance(William Peterson)starts a ruthless search to find who is responsible. His new partner(John Pankow)is not really thrilled with Chance's methods, but he honors the code of a partner is a partner. A story line with cops and counterfeiters, loads of violence and a rambunctious car chase and nudity is enough to keep you in your seat. Peterson is impressive. Wilhem Dafoe is a great bad guy. Others in the cast: John Turturro, Debra Feuer, Dean Stockwell and Robert Downey Sr.
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Ultra-Stylish Super-Eighties Crime Thriller With Tremendous Cast And Direction
ShootingShark21 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Richard Chance, a gung-ho risk-taking secret-service agent, is out to avenge the death of his partner at the hands of an expert counterfeiter, but his reckless actions lead him into a chaotic and ultimately self-destructive spiral, with tragic consequences.

This eye-popping cop thriller, from a novel by Gerald Petievich, is somehow both gritty and glamorous, arty and trashy, enjoyable and deplorable. It's extremely rare in an American thriller to have an antihero who is so resolutely obsessive and distasteful, and who pays the ultimate price for it in the end. Petersen is blisteringly unforgettable in the role, despite having no prior movie experience; all body-popping fireworks and crackling on-screen energy. The rest of the cast are all brilliant as an eclectic series of lowlifes, especially Dafoe as the thoroughly deranged funny-moneymaker. What really pumps this movie into a higher gear though is the supercool direction by Friedkin - his camera zooms all over the place, never pausing for breath, rushing through the action, lovingly painting its canvas of eighties Los Angeles as a cradle of sin. The orange-and-brown photography by Robby Muller, superloud snare-drum music of art-rock band Wang Chung and razor-fast editing by Bud Smith are all first-rate. There is an incredible chase sequence (supervised by Buddy Joe Hooker) when Chance drives the wrong way down a freeway, which is one of the most impressive ever committed to film. The clever twist at the end puts the icing on a brilliantly conceived, top-notch crime thriller. This is a film which puts a detestable sociopath in the hero role and subverts all the standard genre clichés. Never trust a copper.
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