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William Friedkin
William Petersen, Willem Dafoe, John Turturro, John Pankow, Debra Feuer, Darlanne Fluegel, Dean Stockwell
Writing Credits:
William Friedkin, Gerald Petievich

A fearless Secret Service agent will stop at nothing to bring down the counterfeiter who killed his partner.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 116 min.
Price: $34.93
Release Date: 11/22/2016

• Audio Commentary with Director William Friedkin
• “Taking a Chance” Featurette
• “Wrong Way” Featurette
• “So In Phase” Featurette
• “Doctor for a Day” Featurette
• “Renaissance Woman in LA” Featurette
• Deleted Scene and Alternate Ending
• “Counterfeit World” Documentary
• Still Gallery
• Trailer and Radio Spot


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


To Live and Die in LA: Collector's Edition [Blu-Ray] (1985)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 14, 2016)

Although I only saw 1985’s To Live and Die in LA once back during its time of release and never watched it again, the movie stayed with me. As I’ll discuss, it did things differently than I expected, and that made it memorable. Would it still pack the same punch years later? No, but it nonetheless presents a well made crime drama.

LA opens on December 20 in some unspecified year during the Reagan presidency. In a quick prologue, we meet Secret Service agent Richard Chance (William Petersen) and his partner Jimmy Hart (Michael Greene) as they deal with an Islamic suicide bomber at the president’s hotel. After this short introduction, we see that Chance is a hotshot thrill-seeker – he gets his kicks as he bungie-jumps off of a bridge – while Hart will retire in another three days.

When Hart investigates artist/counterfeiter Eric Masters (Willem Dafoe) on December 22, the counterfeiter’s team kills the agent. Chance and his group find Hart’s corpse two days later, and this sends Chance on a single-minded mission to arrest Masters. Along with new partner John Vukovich (John Pankow), he pursues this agenda, one that leads him into potentially shady and unethical directions.

Since a lot of the pleasure from LA comes from its surprises, I’ll stop my synopsis there. Actually, the fact that the movie’s best elements stem from its subversion of the standard cop drama make it tough for me to discuss what I like about it without providing spoilers. Nonetheless, I’ll try my best.

Suffice it to say that LA blew my mind when I saw it in 1985. In many ways, it follows a very standard course, but that’s what makes its twists so stunning. It follows many of the usual conventions but provides some real unexpected turns.

Much of the success for those twists comes from William Friedkin’s direction. No, this isn’t The Exorcist or The French Connection. By 1985, Friedkin’s best days clearly remained behind him, and LA doesn’t approach the heights of those earlier flicks.

However, Friedkin brings a matter-of-factness to LA that works. He takes events most films would present in a bombastic and operatic manner and reduces them to the ho-hum in some ways – a nd this is where it becomes really tough to avoid spoilers.

This subject is also the reason LA plays less well on second viewing. Granted, I’d not seen it in years, and I remembered it mainly for its shocking twists. There was no way these could impact me now like they did back then.

Still, since I knew what was coming, I didn’t find much tension in the film. Some movies can overcome that lack of surprise, but without it, LA seems more ordinary than I recalled.

It also appears God-awful dated in many ways. As I alluded, I liked the objective tone of Friedkin’s earlier work. He didn’t beat the viewer over the head in his best flicks, and he doesn’t do that here either.

However, despite some period-specific styles, Exorcist and Connection don’t seem dated as films. Friedkin avoided cinematic trends of the eras for those, but he doesn’t do so here.

The biggest offender comes from the fairly terrible Wang Chung score. Remembered mainly for their two big pop hits – “Dance Hall Days” and “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” – the Chung offer a synth-heavy piece that firmly cements LA as a work on the mid-Eighties. Like Tangerine Dream’s score for Ridley Scott’s Legend, the music hasn’t aged well at all, and it actively distracts at times.

LA also has a very Miami Vice look to it that sticks it in its period. Many elements of the flick just scream “1985”, and that keeps it from working well on occasion. The best films overcome period concerns, but LA can’t.

Still, To Live and Die In LA generally offers a gritty and well-executed crime drama. It doesn’t pack the punch it did in 1985, but it seems like a fairly interesting piece, especially for new viewers.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

To Live and Die In LA appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The image looked better than I expected.

Sharpness was usually fine, and more than a few sequences offered terrific delineation. A couple of shots seemed a little iffy, but the vast majority appeared concise and accurate. I saw no issues connected to jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement remained absent. In terms of print flaws, I saw a couple of small specks/marks but nothing major.

Many Eighties films suffer from muddy colors, but those of LA mostly came across well. The tones occasionally demonstrated a little of the era’s flatness, but usually the hues looked fairly dynamic and vibrant. They never became runny or messy and mostly were distinctive and tight.

Black levels worked fine, and low-light shots appeared well defined. Shadow detail appeared fairly clean and visible. Only minor issues cropped up in this largely strong presentation.

Though it occasionally showed its age, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of To Live and Die In LA came with real strengths.. On the positive side, it featured a well above average soundfield for a movie from 1985. It seemed surprisingly active as the mix added a lot of different elements. Stereo imaging for the music was somewhat lackluster but generally appeared acceptable.

Effects spread nicely across the front. They were a little more speaker-specific than I’d like, but given the age of the material, I easily forgave that. The pieces moved moderately smoothly across the speakers, and the surrounds contributed a great deal of information to the track. They kicked in nicely during action sequences and provided pretty engaging environment through the whole flick.

LA lost points due to its erratic audio quality. Much of the dialogue sounded good, but the mix included some of the worst looping I’ve heard; a lot of dubbed lines integrated poorly. Mild edginess also affected some lines.

Music varied from reasonably robust to thin and lackluster. However, that mostly related to the source material. The pop production of the day favored a bright trebly sound, so the lack of bass didn’t come as a surprise.

Effects presented some fairly good low-end but they were moderately dense and didn’t sound tremendously realistic some of the time. I also noticed occasional examples of mild distortion. Even with the erratic moments, this became a solid “B” mix for its age.

How did this 2016 “Collector’s Edition” Blu-ray compare to the 2012 BD? Audio seemed a little clearer and more dynamic, while visuals were cleaner and better defined overall. Though I wouldn’t claim that the 2016 CE blew away the prior BD, it did offer improvements.

The Blu-ray mixes old and new extras, and we open with an audio commentary from director William Friedkin, who offers a running, screen-specific piece. At the start, he tells us that he won’t talk about the story, and he keeps to his word. That comes as a relief, for during prior commentaries, Friedkin often did little more than narrate his films.

He avoids the trend for LA and offers a somewhat spotty but generally good examination of the movie. Among other topics, he gets into the flick’s origins, its casting, his editing techniques, how and why Wang Chung did the score, and cinematographic concerns.

Friedkin provides a nice discussion of work on the set and really gets into the challenges of the big car chase, particularly in his attempt to not just rehash the famous pursuit from The French Connection. Friedkin lets too much dead space appear, but this doesn’t become a true annoyance. The director gives us a fine look at his work in this fairly solid commentary.

Next we find a documentary entitled Counterfeit World: The Making of To Live and Die in LA. In this 29-minute, 51-second piece, we get contemporary comments from Friedkin, co-producer/editor Bud Smith, propmaster Barry Bedig, stunt coordinator Buddy Joe Hooker, and actors William Petersen, Willem Dafoe, John Pankow, and Darlanne Flugel. We also get notes from author/co-screenwriter Gerald Petievich and Petersen on the set in 1985.

They cover why the project appealed to Friedkin and the others, spontaneity of the shoot, approaches to the roles, making fake money, Friedkin’s style with actors and with camera set-ups, fight choreography, the chase scene, the ending, and other issues. Some of the information duplicates topics detailed in Friedkin’s commentary, but the program expands these areas well. It doesn’t feel like a great documentary, but it gives us a good perspective on the making of the movie.

After this we get a Deleted Scene/Alternate Ending Featurette. This 13-minute, eight-second piece presents comments from Bud Smith, Petersen, Friedkin, and Pankow, and it also shows us the scenes themselves. They tell us about the sequences, why they were shot, and why they got discarded.

Filmed only as a compromise with the studio, the “Ending” indeed seems pretty terrible and inappropriate for the flick. The “Deleted Scene” involves an attempted reconciliation by Vukovich with his estranged wife. We learn why Friedkin cut it; interestingly, he notes that he wishes he’d kept it.

The Blu-ray includes five new featurettes. Taking a Chance goes for 20 minutes, 41 seconds and provides info from actor William Petersen. He discusses aspects of his career, how he came onto LA, aspects of the shoot, and reactions to the film. Petersen’s anecdotes star here, as he offers a nice array of fun stories.

During the 35-minute, 38-second Wrong Way, we hear from stunt coordinator Buddy Joe Hooker. As expected, he covers the action and stunts of the film. Hooker brings us an informative little chat.

Next comes So In Phase. This 12-minute, 43-second show features Jack Hues and Nick Feldman, the musicians from Wang Chung who composed the movie’s score. They chat about their material for the film as well as working with Friedkin. The musicians provide a good summary.

Doctor for a Day runs eight minutes, 52 seconds and features actor Dwier Brown. He discusses his casting, his performance, and aspects of the shoot. Brown didn’t have a big part, but he offers a few interesting notes.

Finally, Renaissance Woman in LA takes up 14 minutes, 55 seconds and gives us notes from actor Debra Feuer. She covers topics in the same vein as those mentioned by Brown, though obviously she provides her own perspective. That makes Feuer’s conversation enjoyable and informative.

In addition to a trailer and a TV spot, we finish with a Still Gallery, we get a mix of publicity shots and images from the set. 65 of these appear in all.

1985’s To Live and Die In LA doesn’t represent the best from William Friedkin. However, despite some dated moments, it mostly holds up well, especially for first time viewers. The Blu-ray offers pretty positive picture and audio along with a useful set of supplements. This 2016 Collector’s Edition becomes the best version of LA on the market.

To rate this film, visit the DVD review of TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA

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