Saturday, 31 October 2009

To Live & Die In L.A. (1985)

Director William Friedkin (Exorcist/French Connection) was trying to shock audiences and make sleek, sensational, ice-cold thrillers long before MTV rock videos and ''Miami Vice'' were fashionable. ''To Live & Die in L.A.'' is Friedkin at his glossiest, presenting a great-looking, riveting movie without one iota of warmth or soul. On its own terms, it's practically a masterpiece, though it's a film that sacrifices everything in the interests of style. Though, this is not much of a problem when it comes to my personal tastes.

Technically a police drama, ''To Live and Die in L.A.'' is a collection of crisp images, sudden starts and well-timed, periodic kicks designed to keep an audience on its toes. Played out by a then, cast of virtual unknowns and filled with a pulsating soundtrack served up by 80’s new wave group Wang Chung, this movie was everything I was looking for, without actually looking for it. I bought the movie completely on a whim…..and what a whim! Although I must admit that Friedkin can't give this kind of thing much emotional depth, he certainly knows how to make it exciting.

William Chance (William Petersen – Manhunter/CSI) is a Secret Service agent whose partner is murdered by calculating, counterfeiter extraordinaire Rick Masters (Willem Dafoe – Streets Of Fire/Platoon). Chance swears to take down Masters, one way or the other, a promise that sends him and his new partner John Vukovitch (John Pankow) into a tailspin of cat and mouse where they begin to break the rules and get in over their heads. This is not the old buddy-movie formula or the typical Dirty Harry and the “new partner” scenario by a long shot. Chance is an appropriate name for the distant, hotshot agent, who enjoys the rush of base jumping in his spare time, whilst Vukovitch is caught between doing right by his partner and saving his career.

Even though the viewer is given the bare minimum to go on, in regards to familiarising with the main protagonists, you are taken on a great ride full of twists and turns. It’s like a distant glance upon these people and the situations that they find themselves in, a quick snapshot of chaos which is constantly building up. I found ''To Live and Die in L.A.'' to be brilliantly acted and each shot and scene executed to perfection. This movie contains the most realistic and somewhat graphic shootings I’ve seen on screen and possibly the greatest car chase in cinema history.

I would strongly recommend this film to pretty much anyone and cannot praise it enough in terms of unexpected thrills and pure, hard drama.
It's a cynical and very brutal look into the world of law enforcement (adapted by Friedkin from former Secret Service man Gerald Petievich’s novel) and a cold portrayal of the power games between cops and the feds, and cops and their informants.

Best Quote: "Guess what? Uncle Sam don't give a shit about your expenses. You want bread, fuck a baker."



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