To Live and Die in LA (1985) 3.86/5 (2)


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Rating: The Good – 77.8
Genre: Crime
Duration: 116 mins
Director: William Friedkin
Stars: William Petersen, Willem Dafoe, John Pankow

William Friedkin’s outstanding crime thriller is like all of Michael Mann’s 80′s crime thrillers rolled into one and injected with steroids. William Peterson plays Chance, a risk-taking secret service agent who’ll stop at nothing to bring a master counterfeiter who killed his partner to justice, even if that means breaking the law himself. Willem Dafoe plays the counterfeiter in question and as usual he makes the character his own and in doing so gives us one of the more memorable movie villains from that era. Despite its glossy exterior, this is a gritty film that through both anti-hero and villain explores the darker side to crime, punishment, sex, and ego. The action scenes are hugely impressive with Friedkin almost outdoing his French Connection car chase with an even more reckless and equally well acted chase through the LA freeways. The film exudes a self-destructive vibe like few others and that scene is the focal point for such tension. The acting is brilliant with Peterson putting in his second best ever performance after Manhunter (some may argue his outright best). Of course, he is helped by a brilliant supporting cast including the likes of Dean Stockwell, John Turturro, and John Pankow as Chance’s nervous colleague. Though on the exterior, this looks like a Friedkin version of a Michael Mann movie, one must remember that the latter picked up a lot of his favourite themes from Friedkin in the first place (e.g., the obsession of Popeye Doyle has been a recurrent theme in Mann’s characters). Moreover, Friedkin was always more unconventional and even experimental in his films which is why To Live and Die in LA closes in a way Mann would never dream of closing a movie – with an enigmatic psychological punch!

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