By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on December 3, 2016)
To Live and Die in L.A. Collector’s Edition Shout! Factory Blu-ray
Essentially a remake of The French Connection (updated for the 80s), this fast-moving, tough-as-nails neo noir from director William Friedkin ignites the senses on every level: visual, aural and visceral.
Leads William Peterson (as an obsessed treasury agent) and Willem Dafoe (as his criminal nemesis) rip up the screen with star-making performances (both were relative unknowns). While the narrative adheres to familiar “cop on the edge” tropes, there’s an undercurrent of weirdness throughout that makes this a truly unique genre entry (“The stars are God’s eyes!” Peterson’s girlfriend shrieks at him at one point, for no apparent reason). Friedkin co-adapted the screenplay with source novel author Gerald Petievich.
Friedkin’s hard-boiled L.A. story is painted in dusky orange, vivid reds and stark blacks; an ugly/beautiful noir Hell rendered by the late great cinematographer Robby Müller (who worked extensively with Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch). The icing on the cake is Wang Chung’s ace soundtrack, woven seamlessly into the narrative by Friedkin and editor M. Scott Smith.
Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray sports a print sourced from a new 4K scan that is a noticeable improvement over MGM’s from a couple years back, as well as new and archival interviews with cast, crew and composers.