Movie Review: To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)

To Live and Die in L.A. , a 1985 movie based on the eponymous novel written by Gerald Petievich, tells the story of two secret agents, Richard Change ( William Peterse) and John Vukovich (John Pankow), as they attempt to arrest Rick Masters (Willem Dafoe), who’s probably the reason why I loved this movie. Dafoe’s character, basically a counterfeiter, is just smart and evil enough to make the movie worthwhile.

Even though produced on a modest budget – none of the actors were big stars at the time – William Friedkin’s film has been well received by critics.

To Live and Die in L.A. centers around topics such as vengeance, corruption, power. Richard Change often considers himself to be above the law, and, toward the end, above life and death. There’s a fine line between justice and revenge, and this movie does a fine job at showing the difference.

The best is that it’s all believable. There are no exaggerations, no action scenes and special effects that defy the laws of physics.

This one’s a quality thriller which builds momentum mostly through dialogue. At the same time, it does a terrific job at maintaining that momentum throughout the entire length of the movie – the situations build upon one another in a natural, organic way.

The ending is most rewarding, mostly because, like the rest of the movie, feels real. Vukovich isn’t proclaimed a hero – his merits aren’t rewarded or acknowledged.

To Live and Die in L.A. is well worth watching. It’s got enough death and blood, while delivering a strong message. It’s also got this car chase… fantastic.

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