A bright assistant D.A. investigates a gruesome hatchet murder and hides a clue he found at the crime scene. Under professional threats and an attempt on his life, he goes on heartbroken because evidence point to the woman he still loves.
Working largely in cases of counterfeiting, LA based Secret Service agent Richie Chance exhibits reckless behavior which according to his longtime and now former partner Jimmy Hart will probably land him in the morgue before he's ready to retire. That need for the thrill manifests itself in his personal life by his love of base jumping. Professionally, it is demonstrated by the fact that he is sextorting a parolee named Ruth Lanier, who feeds him information in return for him not sending her back to prison for some trumped up parole violation. With his new partner John Vukovich, Chance is more determined than ever, based on recent circumstances, to nab known longtime counterfeiter Ric Masters, who is more than willing to use violence against and kill anyone who crosses him. Masters is well aware that the Secret Service is after him. Masters' operation is somewhat outwardly in disarray, with Chance being able to nab his mule, Carl Cody, in the course of moving some of the fake money, ...Written by
William Friedkin, in his memoir "The Friedkin Connection," says that the fake money they made was so good that, after some of it left the set, he eventually heard from the Secret Service and a US Attorney. After he avoided a confrontation with them, Friedkin states "When the film came out, there were news stories about people trying to make counterfeit money after seeing the step-by-step process in our film. I took some of the twenties, those printed on both sides of course, put them in my wallet, and spent them in restaurants, shoe-shine parlors, and elsewhere. The money was that good." See more »
During the base-jumping scene, the stunt man doubling for Chance can be seen, quite obviously when there's a minor shot that reveals his face and hair from a distance that shows someone who doesn't look like William Petersen. See more »
A Gritty, Anti-Buddy Police Thriller With A Welcome Mean Streak
Another critic discussing this film accurately mentioned "being shamefully ignored" as an injustice this 1985 William-Friedkin masterpiece suffered upon its release. And it was not only the critics who failed to notice its worth. For some reason, the public stayed away in droves as well, this as myself and my friend were practically organizing tours to the theater, introducing people to the film who, weened on "48 Hours", "Miami Vice" and yet to experience the Abbott & Costello hijinks of the "Lethal Weapon" series, had little concept of what a below-the-belt, impeccably crafted cop movie could be. Or would turn into.
Those who've seen Friedkin's earlier genre entry "The French Connection" shouldn't be caught off guard by his often ruthless tactics here, as he's back in the familiar territory of cops and criminals. Nor should those who survived his muscular "Sorcerer"--another unsung hero of an action piece--be unprepared for the director's inability to hide the more challenging (and dreadful) sides of male conflict. Even the disturbing "Cruising", where no attempts were made by the film to explain its ugly corkscrew of a story, all the while summoning an atmosphere thick with dread, still suspenseful, but full of plot holes conveniently filled with leather jackets and the scariest Village-People-on-PCP-soundtrack to date, is just another Friedkin descent into Hell. The details always more than part of a whole.
It may show the surface of a genre flick, but beneath the pulsing Wang Chung soundtrack and 80s-reflective duds (no Members Only jackets appear, luckily) there is as lean and mean and taut a suspense thriller as even Don Siegel could deliver in his prime. And with an outstanding, hyper-realistic cast of then unknowns--including Chicago theater alumni William Pederson, pre-"CSI" and with even more cock to his walk, swaggering through his pursuit of a damaged counterfeiter, Willem Dafoe--the screws tighten with each and every action sequence, climaxing the building mayhem with a cathartic, freeway massacre of automotive chaos on the same scale as a "Mad Max" movie.
The characters ar caustic, the betrayals extremely violent, the music pounding, the ending, in particular, is a departure from the Gerald Petievich novel, the author, himself, a retired U.S. Treasury agent writing an even bleaker resolution to the problem of two unstable detectives at odds with each other, losing their sanity, and finding no comfort in their escalating criminal misbehavior. "To Live And Die In LA" marks a significant and welcome departure within such an oversaturated genre, the buddy cop movie. It refuses to soften its blows or coddle its audience, showing instead dangerous, volatile situations being taken serious. Brutally serious.
Nonetheless, for all its nihilistic tone, captured in parched images of a city populated by thugs, thieves, and sociopathic criminals, "To Live And Die In LA" is like a breath of fresh smog.
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