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To Live and Die in LA holdup William Friedkin, William Petersen, Willem Dafoe, John Pankow, Michael Greene, Debra Feuer, John Turturro, Darlanne Fluegel, Dean Stockwell, Robert Downey, Sr., Steve James

To Live and Die in LA: when his partner is murdered by a counterfeiter a rabid secret serviceman will do anything to avenge him. All the classic cop tropes are in here: the three days left on the job veteran, mismatched and reluctant partners, etc etc. However, instead of the one-dimensional ‘good cop bad cop’, we get two complex and grey characters going through a moral minefield. For relatively unknown actors (at the time), the performances across the board are rock solid, particularly young Willem Dafoe’s slimy and menacing ultra-villain. The star for me is Friedkin; his direction here is outstanding and the opening 15 minutes or so has some bold editing, imagery, and musical choices – almost giving the film a bona fide arthouse vibe, and really putting the viewer on the back foot. Everything from an intense crazy car chase (wrong way through traffic) through to nail-biting tension (a split screen break-in) is handled superbly. The plot is the only thing that lets the film down a bit; it’s a simple revenge story that becomes unnecessarily convoluted through lots of tertiary characters and tangents. That being said, the film is always interesting and memorable – with the anti-hero cops on the edge, and characters on the fringes of society in out-of-the-ordinary situations (jail, strip club, dance troupe…) Depending on your tolerance, this film may be ‘too 1980s’ to handle: the fashion, dominating synths, neon title cards, and homo-eroticism that didn’t  quite make it to the 90s. I feel sorry for William Friedkin: after two major successes (The Excorcist and French Connection) critics have been queuing up to stick the boot in to everything he’s done since. For my money he’s one of the most rock-solid film-makers, and one of the few that uses the medium to really get in your head – his framing, soundscape, editing, imagery, and commitment to shocks and disruption are awe-inspiring. To Live and Die in LA is an 80s cop film that stands the test of time because of the talent involved – not for the faint-hearted though.

Score: 8/10

To live and Die in LA Burning Painting Fire William Friedkin, William Petersen, Willem Dafoe, John Pankow, Michael Greene, Debra Feuer, John Turturro, Darlanne Fluegel, Dean Stockwell, Robert Downey, Sr., Steve JamesTo Live and Die in LA Window Shatter William Friedkin, William Petersen, Willem Dafoe, John Pankow, Michael Greene, Debra Feuer, John Turturro, Darlanne Fluegel, Dean Stockwell, Robert Downey, Sr., Steve JamesTo Live and Die in LA Facepaint Dancer William Friedkin, William Petersen, Willem Dafoe, John Pankow, Michael Greene, Debra Feuer, John Turturro, Darlanne Fluegel, Dean Stockwell, Robert Downey, Sr., Steve James