To Live and Die In L.A. (1985) – William Friedkin

I don’t know how it happens, but between the watching and the re-watching, I constantly forget how awesome To Live and Die In L.A. is. I know it’s good, I love this movie, but I seem to be consistently stunned every time I settle in for this one.

Amazingly I didn’t see this film upon release. It would have stunned my fourteen year old mind, I had seen the video cassette in the rental shops, and knew some adults who had rented it, but I never did. When I came to it in the early 90s I was gobsmacked.

William Petersen stars as Richard Chance, a secret service agent who has no fear when it comes to pursuing his suspect. In this case, he’s lined up on a prolific, and slightly insane, counterfeiting artist, Eric Masters (Willem Dafoe).

Rounding out the cast is John Turturro, Dean Stockwell, Steve James and Darlanne Fluegel, each member of the cast is on point, and brings the grit, glitz, glamour and grime of 80s L.A. to life.

Chance is saddled with a new partner, Vukovich (John Pankow) who is stunned to see how far Richard is willing to go over the line to get his man, including pulling a heist of his own, which leads to a now iconic car chase.

Friedkin delivers yet another masterpiece, and you can’t help but be caught up in every frame of the film. Everything works in this film, the cast, the framing, editing, lighting, and the music by Wang Chung. It all resonates, and is most likely one of the best undercover cop films made… ever.

With gritty realism, and a car chase that is as white knuckle as it gets (this was the last sequence shot just in case the cast were injured), this film is a no holds barred crime thriller that stuns and wows right up to the last scene.

It’s an examination of the line between cop and criminal, and how that line blurs by those who work either side of it. And each time I watch it, I just sit there taken in by every aspect of the film. It plays out perfectly, and is probably one of my favourite films, until the disc comes out of my player… then I remember it being awesome, but not as awesome as it is… until I watch it again.

I love that this film constantly surprises and wows me no matter how many times I see it. And that last shootout, every single time… WOW!

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