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 ace cinematographer Robby Müller (who has worked extensively with Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch).
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.