The Ultimate 80’s Action Film To Live and Die in LA

To Live and Die in LA Main Background

I’m embarrassed to say that it took me 38 years to finally watch To Live and Die in LA. I give myself some leeway on this as the film is a very hard “R” and I was only 15 when it came out. We lived in a very conservative household so, it just wasn’t on our list of movies that were accessible to us. So if you’re like me and you waited a long time to go see it, this is what I will tell you: if you LOVE movie stunts, it’s a “can’t miss”, if you love Miami Vice, what are you waiting for, if you ever wondered if William Friedkin would ever direct something as good as “The French Connection” again, I say, “Here you go”, and if you want to see some incredible acting by some of the best up-and-comers before they hit it really big, then this movie has everything you could want.

To Live and Die in LA Movie Trailer with William Petersen, Willem Dafoe and John Turturro

I will warn you, for those of you that are uncomfortable with gratuitous sex scenes and really bloody violence, then this film would not be for you.

For those of you unfamiliar with how I discuss a film, I’m not one to give the synopsis of the movie. I leave that up to IMDB to tell you what the story is. I’m here to discuss the elements and if the elements sound like something you want to see, then I’ve done what I came here to do. To plant a seed to movies you may have not seen before that are worth watching.

Now, over the years there has been a stunt in The French Connection that has overshadowed everything William Friedkin has ever done since, except for maybe The Exorcist, but William Friedkin was dead set on doing it again. He had several opportunities, Sorcerer comes close with the truck on the bridge (tense, I’m telling you) but this movie he does it. The stunt in The French Connection I’m referring to is the amazing car chase sequence culminating with Gene Hackman shooting the bad guy in the back on the stairs. When people talk about movie stunts, this sequence always comes up. Stuntman Bill Hickman was the driver on that film, and it’s a “Can’t Miss” on the list of movie stunts.

So, back to Live and Die in LA, William Friedkin wanted so badly to do an even better car chase sequence and I really think he does it in this film. Friedkin hired stunt coordinator Buddy Joe Hooker, one of the all time best movie stuntmen with numerous world records (Hooper, Clay Pigeon to name a few) to create the sequence. Friedkin wanted him to have the chase culminate by driving the wrong way on a stacked LA freeway at rush hour. Something unheard of back then but has been copied a bunch of times since then. Anyway, the sequence is fantastic. It’s so good that I would have given it a lot more thought about awarding the “Best Stunt” of 1985 to Jackie Chan for Police Story. You can read about it here: But let’s be honest, Jackie Chan is super human in Police Story. Still I give Buddy Joe Hooker (I talk about him in the blog post about Hooper, with Burt Reynolds: a big bag of kudos for his work in To Live and Die in LA…very impressive.

Want to see William Friedkin top himself from The French Connection? Watch this clip from To Live and Die in LA.

Director William Friedkin delivers probably the single strongest example of what it is to be an 80’s action film. But what really makes the film special is the casting. It has William Petersen (before CSI), Jane Leeves (before Frasier- don’t blink, you’ll miss her), John Pankow (before Mad About You), John Turturro (before All The Coen Brothers Movies) and especially Willem Dafoe (before Spider-man and a million other movies). It just goes to show you how to make and indie film with a low budget and still get unknowns that are unbelievably good! They are out there. Waiting to be discovered. They all really shine in this movie and it’s no wonder that they all went on to amazing film careers and TV careers after this.

I’m sad I waited to long to see this film, but I’m glad I finally came around to it!