‘To Live And Die In L.A.’ is one of the best known works of director William Friedkin. An influential and stylish crime thriller which has just been re-released by Arrow Video in an all new 4K transfer from the original 35mm negative. This remastered release will give both old and new audiences to the film a look at the director in his prime, as well as a chance to see performances from William Peterson and Willem Dafoe at a very early stage in their careers.
For anyone unfamiliar with the plot, it centres around Secret Service agent Richard Chance (William Peterson) who is assigned as a counterfeiting investigator in Los Angeles along with his partner Jim Hart (Michael Greene). Just days away from retirement, Jim is shot and killed whilst staking out a suspicious warehouse. The warehouse turns out to be a base for the counterfeit money printing of Eric Masters, a notorious figure played with trademark intensity by Willem Dafoe. Richard is assigned a new partner, and swears to him that he will bring down Masters, no matter what.
The two agents attempt to get information on Masters by setting up a surveillance operation on the house of one of his associates, a lawyer named Max Waxman. However this fails spectacularly when his new partner falls asleep and fails to catch Masters popping round to the house and murdering Waxman. This prompts Richard to stop playing things by the book and go after Masters on his own terms. After Richard starts sleeping with an informant and attempting to extort information out of her, his partner decides to meet up with Master’s attorney Bob Grimes, who agrees to set up a meeting between the agents and Masters. Their plan then involves posing as bankers from Palm Springs who are interested in the counterfeit money Masters creates. Masters is keen to do business, but wants a lot of money upfront – meaning the only way they could pull this off would involve breaking the law themselves. Richard’s new partner is reluctant, but soon finds himself agreeing to go along with it – and they soon find themselves in over their heads in a quest for justice.
If this all sounds a little familiar, then it won’t come as a surprise to learn that this film was undoubtedly a big influence on the genre. The plot point of someone being killed just days before retirement has become something of a cliché, and the film even contains the phrase “I’m getting too old for this shit”. It’s undoubtedly a genre film, and by the standards of today may seem a tad generic, but that doesn’t stop this from holding up as an entertaining and worthwhile watch. It’s got everything you expect to see in this sort of film – fight scenes, shootouts, car chases and sex (although personally I could have done without seeing William Peterson’s penis).
The 4K transfer looks quite grainy but otherwise very sharp, with bright bold colours and detailed textures – it’s no doubt the best looking edition of the film available. Visually the film is very 80s, everything from the clothes and sets to the pulsing synth soundtrack from Wang Chung. Watching it now it has quite a nostalgic, retro charm, and there’s no doubt that this has become something of a trend in recent times. From the 80’s style of 2011’s Drive and the recent series Stranger Things, it seems like there’s no better time to revisit this staple of the decade. So if you haven’t seen this film in a while or you’re getting sick of dusting off your VHS of Lethal Weapon, this new edition is worth giving a go.
To Live And Die In LA is out on DVD and Blu-Ray now.