TO LIVE AND DIE L.A.
MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
William Friedkin directs this gritty mid-80s crime drama about a Secret Service agent named Chance (William Petersen) whose partner is killed during a counterfeit bust. Chance then sets his sights on L.A.’s biggest counterfeiter (Willem Dafoe), sending him spiraling out of control into the seedy underbelly of southern California gangsters.
WHAT I LIKED
I remember the summer of 1985 well. It was one of the best summers on record for movies, giving us films like “Back to the Future,” “Day of the Dead” and “Return of the Living Dead.” While I was just a little young to appreciate a film like “To Live and Die in L.A.” (or to sneak into the R-rated showings), there is a huge sense of nostalgia I had watching this film today.
“To Live and Die in L.A.” embodies the 80s in its heyday, with “Miami Vice” music and fashions. The film is cheesy as hell but it is a ton of fun for someone who remembered how this passed as uber-edgy back in the day.
Director William Friedkin, who has had some fantastic hits (like “The Exorcist” and “The French Connection”) along with quite a few misses (like “Rules of Engagement” and “Bug”), turns out a great crime drama with a car chase that rivals that in “The French Connection.” This movie embodies the machismo of the decade the way “Point Break” did the 90s.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
All of the problems that “To Live and Die in L.A.” faces result from it being a product of the 80s and a product of the action movie template. The acting is over the top, and the characters are seedy, but that’s the point of the film, after all (at least the seediness, not necessarily the acting). You don’t really have anyone to root for, but it’s more entertaining to watch things blow up in Chance’s face.
Also, there are plenty of filmmaking techniques from that era – including the overuse of a pop music soundtrack, a too cool nature of the characters and a yet-to-be-developed dynamic shooting style that the movie does tend to pale to the viewer who didn’t experience these mid-80s movies when they were cutting edge.
The Blu-ray itself does not contain any special features, but at least the grain of the film is retained without washing it out to a plasticine level.
Fortunately, the Blu-ray is bundled with the standard-definition DVD, which includes a deleted scene and an alternate ending, a documentary about counterfeiting, a photo gallery and commentary by director William Friedkin.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Anyone who thought “Miami Vice” was cool, either back in the 80s or now.