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With: William Petersen, Willem Dafoe, John Pankow, Debra Feuer, John Turturro, Darlanne Fluegel, Dean Stockwell, Steve James, Robert Downey Sr., Michael Greene, Christopher Allport, Jack Hoar, Valentin de Vargas
Written by: William Friedkin, Gerald Petievich, based on a novel by Gerald Petievich
Directed by: William Friedkin
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 114
Date: 11/01/1985

To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Counterfeit for a King

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

William Friedkin's 1985 film To Live and Die in L.A. may be one of his very best, though it did not reach the level of acclaim and support of his earlier films The French Connection and The Exorcist.

Based on Gerald Petievich's novel, the film deals with the bizarre world of counterfeiting, but especially the even more bizarre world of the United States Secret Service. In the film, agent Richard Chance (William S. Petersen, now famous for his hit TV show "CSI") teams up with a new partner John Vukovich (John Pankow) and tries to take out a well-established Los Angeles counterfeiter, Rick Masters (Willem Dafoe).

The two cops go undercover and manage to strike a deal with Masters, but the department won't approve the drop money they need to clinch the deal and snatch the bad guy. So the cops do the next best thing: they stage a daring robbery that ends in a harrowing chase scene -- driving against traffic on a five-lane Los Angeles freeway.

As a final detail, Friedkin set To Live and Die in L.A. over the course of the holiday season right through the end of December and the beginning of January, and yet no sign of holiday decoration or celebration ever comes up at any point.

The pop group Wang Chung provided the film's dated, but still effective score, as well as a few songs.

MGM/UA has released a spectacular new single-disc edition of the film, complete with a Friedkin commentary track, outtakes, a really terrible alternate "happy" ending, featurettes, and more. The disc retails for $19.98.

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