To Live and Die in L.A.
Film Info
Section:The Late Show
Premiere Status:USA
Year of Prod:1985
Running Time:116
Original Language:English
dir:William Friedkin
prod:Irving H. Levin
scr:William Friedkin
Gerald Petievich
cam:Robby Müller
editor:Scott Smith
mus:Wang Chung
cast:William Petersen
Willem Dafoe
John Pankow
Debra Feuer
Darlanne Fluegel
John Turturro
source:MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) distrubted by: Park Circus
28355 Witherspoon Parkway
CA 91355

An amoral U.S. Treasury agent drags his squeaky-clean new partner straight into hell in William Friedkin's action-packed thriller in which the good guys and bad guys are barely distinguishable. After sleek counterfeiter Eric Masters (Willem Dafoe) murders a treasury agent, the risk-taking, aptly named Richard Chance (a pre-CSI William Petersen in his first starring role) goes rogue with his partner John Vukovich (John Pankow) reluctantly joining him in an obsessive pursuit that swiftly spirals out of control. Fourteen years after he garnered a Best Director Oscar for Best Picture winner The French Connection, Friedkin dazzles again in this tense, atmospheric return to the world of cops and crooks. Both films benefit from his documentarian eye for detail, which here includes a fascinating sequence of Masters at his job making money the old-fashioned way: with a printing press, Xacto knife and washing machine. Like the earlier film, this one has a memorable chase scene and it is Friedkin’s finest, an adrenalin-pumped, fender-bending, frantic race through LA streets, freeways and even riverbed, that leaves the viewer as breathless as poor John Vukovich trapped in the back seat for the duration of the wild ride. The director makes a point of marking the gulf between Masters’ upscale life and Chance’s blue-collar environment that provides a portrait of two sides of Los Angeles and while the soundtrack—”Everybody Wang Chung tonight!”—the hair and the fashions mark the film of its era, there is also a timelessness to this tale of law and disorder.
-Pam Grady

Co-presenter: Film Noir Foundation

Additional Information

William Friedkin

William Friedkin got his start in documentary filmmaking before making his feature debut with the Sonny and Cher movie Good Times (1967). He quickly moved into New Hollywood’s forefront as the director of the groundbreaking The Boys in the Band (1970); Best Picture Oscar winner The French Connection (1971), for which he received the Oscar for Best Director; The Exorcist (1973), for which he received a second Best Director Oscar nomination; Sorcerer (1977) and the controversial Cruising (1980). Among his other films are the San Francisco-set Jade (1995), The Hunted (2003), Bug (2006) and Killer Joe (2011). He is also the author of a memoir, The Friedkin Connection (2013). “I'm not my films at all,” he says. “I have, unfortunately, a much more delicate sensibility. And a lot of the behavior that I show in my films is stuff I find truly frightening. It's a way of grappling with those demons often.”