William Friedkin is one of the best directors ever. He does not have a gigantic filmography but starting from his breakout hit The French Connection in 1971, he has put out many films in many genres such as The Exorcist, Sorcerer, Cruising, the underseen and underappreciated Rampage, The Guardian, Blue Chips, Jade (one of my favorites and strangely hated by many), The Hunted and another underrated gem, Killer Joe. Another classic Friedkin film that is not mentioned often enough is now out from the folks at Shout! Factory in a new special edition, To Live and Die in L.A.
Secret Service agent Richard Chance (William Peterson) specializes in cases of counterfeiting. While trying to pursue an elusive counterfeiter named Ric Masters (Willem Dafoe) Chance’s partner is killed and sets Chance off on an obsessive hunt to find and stop Masters once and for all with vengeance driving him to break any and all of the rules in the process.
To Live and Die in L.A. is structurally very 1970s but aesthetically totally 80s. With all the flair and pastels of the best Miami Vice episode Friedkin takes his signature style, adds a dash of Michael Mann (Miami Vice was in its prime at this time) and the result is a tense, well written, well acted crime thriller that stands up with the best of them. William Peterson, who would go on to become best known as Gil Grissom in the hit television show C.S.I. is phenomenal here as the determined Chance. Pair this film up with the Michael Mann film Manhunter, which came out a year later, and you have a pair of films that feature great performances by the same actor as well as two films that have many similarities thematically and stylistically. To Live and Die in L.A. is a crime classic and well deserving of this new special edition.
The new 4K restoration of To Live and Die in L.A. is spectacular and is by far the best the film has ever looked. Special features include five new interview shorts with William Peterson, stunt coordinator Buddy Joe Hooker, additional cast members and best of all, an interview with the 80s hit band Wang Chung who scored the film! There is also a great selection of older featurettes and a commentary by Friedkin. This is a beautiful new edition of a classic 80s flick. Highly recommended.