William Friedkin created two of the greatest film’s of the New Hollywood movement – ‘The French Connection’ and ‘The Exorcist’ – but ‘To Live and Die in L.A.’ is one of his many disappointments. I could not tell you any of the characters names except for William Dafoe, who delivers a solid performance as a ruthless and sexy artist/counterfeiter named Rick Masters. And that may be the problem: the film revolves around a cop’s descent into the immoral to enact revenge on Dafoe for killing his partner, but the stakes never seem very high because counterfeiting money is such a bogus crime compared to all the other horrendous cover-up violence that goes untouched by the detectives. Stylistically Friendkin doesn’t seem to know whether he wants to make an L.A. edition of a Miami Vice franchise or a 70’s style crime drama, a combination of slickness and grit that does not mix well. Friedkin does deliver on a fabulously crafted car chase about 3/4 of the way into the film, but again, the stakes of the situation do not match the visceral intensity: all of the pursuers remain heavily-armed and faceless while our anti-hero and his partner never seem to be in real peril.
Bottom Line: Friedkin… I wish he had stopped making movies in 1977. Youtube the car chase and save yourself the two hours.