film reel image

film reel image

Sunday, August 14, 2022

To Live and Die in L.A. 1985 * * * 1/2 Stars


"If you can't come up with the front money, you're not for real". Oh but 1985's To Live and Die in L.A. is for real, real authentic. That's how director William Friedkin wanted it. Just check out the counterfeiting scene in the film's first act. Nuff said. 

"L.A." is probably the first R-rated movie I ever went to see at the theater. It was the fiery red trailer that garnered interest. Ugh. As an 11-year-old that got my dad to accompany me, it was an awkward moment to say the least. Oh well. I've gone on to appreciate Friedkin's distant vision of detectives and malefactors in the City of Angels. To most people, Los Angeles is palm trees and sunshine and Hollywood. To William Friedkin, it's the dark end of the street, the seedy borough, the turista.  

Now is To Live and Die in L.A. a buddy cop movie? For sure. The flick is somewhat sandwiched between 48 Hrs. and Lethal Weapon. Is "L.A." a good buddy cop movie? Again for sure. Yeah the actors were unknown (at the time), yeah their characters were aloof, and yeah, To Live and Die in L.A. is anything but tongue in cheek. Still, "L.A." succeeds as a big studio pic with an independent feel. As I stated in the first paragraph, that's how Billy Friedkin wanted it. 

Friedkin directs To Live and Die in L.A. with a certain rawness and a dirtied up proficiency. According to the film's documentary, his stars (William Peterson, John Pankow, Willem Dafoe) didn't need to hit their marks and didn't need to memorize the script (improvisation was called for). Rapt. "L.A." is an action-packed, non-probity nightmare. It may evoke the 80s with its neon hues but the tone is bleak what with the cops playing dirty pool against the expert, ersatz slugs. 

Look for the greatest car chase ever filmed for its time (Pankow and Peterson's personas evading the bad guys by driving down a one-way street), some windup revelations, and Wang Chung's sick, 1980s soundtrack. To Live and Die in L.A. is well, "the place to be". 

Written by Jesse Burleson

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