TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. (1986)

PrintE-mail Written by John Higgins

'The Director of The French Connection is back on the streets again' said the promotion for William Friedkin's 1985 thriller To Live and Die in L.A. and for fans of that 1971 classic, it was a return to form.

Although it didn't make that much of a ruckus at the box-office upon its original release, like a number of that decade's releases, it has undergone a crucial reassessment, not only as a representation of the decade's ideals and optimism, but also as a remarkably influential film like Scarface a couple of years prior.

Fans of Grand Theft Auto might sense a nod here, given the classic soundtrack by underrated British band Wang Chung (who were lauded in the States more than they were in the UK) and the overall visual style and editing by Cinematographer Robby Muller and Editor Bud Smith does evoke some of the style incorporated later on in the classic multi-platform game blockbuster.

In the context of its release, it was at the height of Miami Vice's success and creator Michael Mann might have decided to lift some of the essence of Friedkin's film in L.A Takedown, the start-off point for the Pacino/De Niro classic Heat.

Co-scripted by Friedkin with Gerald Petievich from his novel of the same name, it chronicles the attempts of two Secret Service agents, Richard Chance (William Petersen) and John Vukovich (John Pankow) to nail expert counterfeiter Rick Masters (Willem Dafoe), who Chance is after for the alleged murder of his long-term retiring partner Jimmy Hart (Michael Greene) when he checks out Masters' desert operation. With help from an informant, Ruth Lanier (Darlanne Fluegel) amongst others, the plot and case deepens…

Although it doesn't quite hit the legendary iconic status of the Oscar-winner 15 years earlier, TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. remains a tough, uncompromising insight into the world of California law enforcement, thanks in no part to Petievich's history as a former Secret Service Agent and Friedkin's assured direction. Jane Leeves also made her main American debut here (credited as Jane Leaves) as Serena, a lesbian friendly with Master's girlfriend Bianca Torres (Debra Feuer). Also notable are John Turturro as stooge Carl Cody and Darlanne Fluegel (who also appeared alongside Billy Crystal in 1986's Running Scared; as well as Nanelia in the Roger Corman classic Battle Beyond the Stars)

Arrow Video's Blu-ray release to mark the 30th Anniversary also contains an alternate ending (and rather bizarre when you watch the original version) and a host of interviews and reflections, notably one from Wang Chung about the soundtrack evolution. Picture and sound are first-rate, bringing out the sunshine and dust of the City of Angels.

TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. (1986) / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: WILLIAM FRIEDKIN / SCREENPLAY: WILLIAM FRIEDKIN, GERALD PETIEVICH / STARRING: WILLIAM PETERSEN, WILLEM DAFOE, JOHN PANKOW, DEBRA FEUER / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 21ST

 


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