Obscure action films from the 80s seem to be slowly making their way to Blu-ray, with the latest release coming from Fox with To Live and Die in L.A.. Although its main villain, Willem Dafoe, has gone on to bigger movies, the rest of this cast seems to have disappeared into obscurity. Maybe it’s just because this film came out before I was even born, but there were very few faces that actually looked familiar to me. Which actually aided in my enjoyment of it as I had no idea who or what roles these actors were previously known for, allowing me to get fully enveloped in the storyline and it’s “what a twist!”-like ending.
William L. Petersen (Manhunter, “CSI”) and Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man) face off in a deadly game of cat and mouse in this riveting action-thriller, To Live and Die in L.A. Full of flash, style and grit, this raw tale of corruption and revenge features one of the most harrowing car chases ever caught on film and a shockingly explosive ending. Federal Agent Richard Chance (Petersen) has a score to settle, and he’s through playing by the rules. Whether that means blackmailing a beautiful parolee, disobeying direct orders or hurtling the wrong way down a crowded freeway, he vows to take down a murderous counterfeiter (Dafoe) by any means necessary. But as the stakes grow higher, will Chance’s obsession with vengeance ultimately destroy him?
This is a typical cop/action thriller when it boils down to it. Very Miami Vice (which this film actually got sued over for stealing from or something) in execution, only I enjoyed this movie a whole hell of a lot more than Mann’s horrid attempt with Farrell and Foxx. In any case L.A. is quite a good way to blow off two hours, especially if you’re in the mood for an action film. There’s nothing in this film at this point that hasn’t been copied or re-done better in modern action outings, but this film still manages to intrigue the viewer. It’s a bit on the “dirty” side as well—both in appearance as well as characters, as the cops in here are closer to something out of Bad Lieutenant than they are about…well, something with good cops in it. Is there anything that immediately comes to mind for anyone else? Because I’m blanking…guess there just isn’t that many movies about really good cops. Plenty of TV shows though…
But anyway the basic premise of this film is interesting enough to get into easily. The counterfeit money angle is, again, nothing new, but the way the cops go about finding and apprehending the guy behind it all it especially interesting. It’s also just fun to see cops, who are good at what they do, just to not give a crap, and go about the mission in their own way. It’s very Die Hard in that regard, although the cops aren’t nearly as good natured as John McClane was. But the end result in this film was incredibly surprising…so good in fact I’ll leave it unspoiled for those who were like me and hadn’t seen the movie. See this film isn’t well known so the “twist” at the end should be fairly unheard of. I thought all older films were formulaic in execution and while the presentation of this film fit that description, it branched out into its own area of “wow” with the way the final act was handled.
One thing about the end of the film I will touch on was the car chase. I read up on this film after watching it and I have to say I am nothing short of impressed by what it took to pull that whole sequence off. Shifting traffic around to run in the opposite direction and even saving the big stunt until end of filming so that if anything happened to the actors they would be able to finish the film in post. I’m honestly surprised you don’t hear more about this film among action junkies, but such is the way of the genre. It’s overloaded as is so it’s no surprise some of these films become forgotten.
In any case To Live and Die in L.A. is a great action flick and one well worth checking out if you’re into the genre. It’s got a few twists and turns which you may or may not see coming and if you can appreciate the film for its age and what they were able to get away with then you should find this film more than Recommended.
Fox passes To Live and Die in L.A. in another Blu-ray/DVD hybrid release. What I mean by this is the first disc in the film only on Blu-ray and the second is the previously release DVD pressing, complete with all of the extras. So that means it’s only the film in HD and nothing else…which isn’t a major deal, but you think they could’ve slapped the commentary track from the DVD portion so viewers wouldn’t have to watch the movie in standard definition just to listen to it. But in any case it’s a decent package for those who don’t own the film previously. It arrives in a standard Elite Blu-ray two-disc Eco case and a singular insert denoting the importance of firmware upgrades.
Video is an AVC encoded transfer and…well, it’s mixed. This is obviously a very old film (over twenty years now), but it’s still surprising to me how sketchy it is at times. The transfer has a very nice film like appearance to it, full of details in some moments and just…really hopeless in others. All around it’s a pretty decent visual, but honestly I question why they would even release this film on Blu-ray as the transfer honestly is pretty much the definition of an “all right” Blu-ray transfer. Audio is the same way with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. There’s some decent directionality in the surrounds, but most of the sound effects are dated and the LFE output is muffled and is rarely cause for any kind of room shaking. It’s not a horrible mix but like the video it’s just merely “OK.”
Extras are all on the DVD disc and include:
Deleted Scenes and Alternate Ending Featurettes
Counterfeit World: The Making of To Live And Die In L.A. Documentary
Audio Commentary by Director William Friedkin
Nothing is new here, but for those who haven’t seen the film you’ll find almost all of them worth checking out as this film certainly has a lot of interesting stories behind it if nothing else.
Recommended for newcomers, but those who own the DVD release already can safely Skip this one.
To Live and Die in L.A. is now available on Blu-ray.