“Buddy, you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
A Los Angeles secret agent (William L. Petersen) swears to avenge the death of his partner (Michael Greene) by capturing notorious counterfeiter Eric “Rick” Masters (Willem Dafoe).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Dean Stockwell Films
- Los Angeles
- Thieves and Criminals
- William Friedkin Films
Few films define the 1980s as decisively as William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in L.A.: from its synthesized soundtrack to its outlandish fashion sensibilities, every aspect of the film evokes flashbacks to this notorious decade of questionable taste. Stylistic issues aside, however, the film remains a top-notch thriller, one which follows a familiar storyline trope — cop seeks revenge for his dead partner — but is executed with panache and skill. As noted below, Friedkin (ably assisted by cinematographer Robby Muller) makes excellent use of L.A.’s grittier environs, and the lengthy freeway car chase is a worthy follow-up to the infamous chase scene in his earlier cop classic, The French Connection (1971). Performance-wise, stage-actor Petersen isn’t all that charismatic or memorable in the lead role, but he does a fine job showing his character’s moral struggle; however, it’s Dafoe’s cold-hearted criminal who truly shines here, oozing greed and amorality at every turn.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Willem Dafoe as Petersen’s personal nemesis
- A fascinating glimpse at high-tech counterfeiting
- Excellent use of realistic L.A. cityscapes, streets, and alleys
- A truly exciting freeway car chase
- The “very ’80s” synthesized soundtrack by Wang Chung
No, but it’s recommended.