This underrated 1985 gem makes a great companion piece to both director William Friedkin's The French Connection and breakthrough star William Petersen's Manhunter.To Live and Die in L.A. is often only remembered when considering the top movie car chases in film history, otherwise overlooked in the pantheon of films by acclaimed director William Friedkin. The film is also the first starring role for CSI's own Gil Grissom, William Petersen, the success from which would pave the way for him to go on to star in another underrated gem - and arguably the best Thomas Harris / Hannibal Lecter adaptation to boot - Michael Mann's Manhunter. The plot of To Live and Die in L.A. follows Petersen's already borderline psychotic Secret Service Agent as he goes to increasingly drastic lengths to catch the man who killed his partner.With support from a remarkably restrained Willem Dafoe as the antagonist, and a plethora of colourful character parts, the film is marred slightly by the casting of Petersen's new partner, who simply doesn't look the part, particularly as his character 'evolves'. But it's a minor niggle in a film that boasts a great Wang Chung score, superb cinematography and at-the-height-of-his-game direction from Friedkin, some tense action setpieces, including that memorable car chase (the likes of which a post-CG world will never see again), and an unpredictable narrative even thirty years after release. For fans of French Connection and Manhunter, this one's well worth checking out.
Picture QualityTo Live and Die in L.A. hits UK Region B-locked Blu-ray courtesy of Arrow Video who deliver a stunning new 4K restoration from the original 35mm negative, supervised and approved by director William Friedkin. Detail is excellent throughout, showcasing some outstanding clarity both on the frequent character close-ups and the broader shots, and lapping up some of the minor nuances that you may have never noticed before. Clothing weaves, hair strands and background textures spring to life - it's never looked this good.
The disc boasts a stunning image mastered from a new 4K restoration
Thankfully Friedkin doesn't do anything controversial with the colour palette either, retaining the film's love for bright neons and vivid primaries against its sun-kissed LA haze. Black levels are strong and a natural layer of grain remains evident throughout, although only adding to the texture of the piece. A superior restoration job and any niggles should be leveled at the original material/shoot as this is clearly the best that the film has ever looked.
Sound QualityArrow's Blu-ray release offers up To Live and Die in L.A. with HD tracks in either DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 or 2.0 format, with the former a surprisingly expansive mix considering the film's vintage.
The release offers up a surprisingly expansive 5.1-channel mix
Dialogue is firmly prioritised across the frontal array, remaining clear and coherent for the most part, whilst the effects revel in some penetrating, echoing gunfire, glass breaking, raging fires and squealing tyres. Of course the car chase stands out, although not just because of the sound design but also the lack of scoring, with the car's strained engine revving marking the most prominent accompaniment to the furious stunts. The score - bolstered by Wang Chung's title track and some limited use of their hit Dance Hall Days - is outstanding and, even if the majority of the track favours that more tinny 80s approach to both scoring and effects, the LFE channel is far from non-existent. Great work.
ExtrasOn the extras front, Arrow pull out all the stops, delivering a series of excellent accompanying new Interviews to bolster the previously available extras, themselves finally transitioning to Blu-ray after the last Blu-ray release merely stuck them on a lazy second DVD disc identical to the preceding DVD release. These original extras include Friedkin's Audio Commentary, which talks about the book that the film was based upon, the different side to Secret Service Agents not often depicted on film, and key sequences captured for the movie. Counterfeit World: The Making of To Live and Die in L.A. is a half-hour archival Featurette with plenty of interview snippets from the cast and crew, and the Deleted Scene and, in particular, the Alternate Ending show just what Hollywood would have done to this movie had it been made today. The original extras conclude with a Stills Gallery and Trailers.
Arrow pull out all the stops with an excellent set of extras
In terms of new material, Taking a Chance is a brand new interview with star William Petersen who talks about getting his big break and working with Friedkin, a theme which is followed in actor Dwier Brown's interview, Doctor for a Day and Debra Feuer's Interview, Renaissance Woman. Even the Interview with composers Wang Chung, So In Phase: Scoring to Live and Die in L.A. has them grateful for this, their first cinematic opportunity, thanks to Friedkin. Wrong Way: The Stunts of To Live and Die in L.A. offers up an Interview with stunt coordinator Buddy Joe Hooker, who talks in particular about the defining car chase in the movie. The package is rounded off by a reversible sleeve featuring the original and newly-commissioned artwork as well as another fantastic Criterion-esque booklet with its own background interviews into the production.
Blu-ray VerdictTo Live and Die in L.A., much like its star William Petersen, deserved much more acclaim upon its release, and remains one of those under-praised, oft-unnoticed top-notch crime thrillers which warrants a place in anybody and everybody's collection.
Arrow Video deliver another underrated gem that looks and sounds great on Blu-ray
Arrow's Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release serves up another underrated gem in fine form, with a fantastic 4K-remastered video presentation and excellent audio options, as well as a plethora of old and new extras, the former of which is making its Blu-ray bow (having previously been relegated to a second DVD disc on the last Blu-ray release). Highly recommended.
You can buy To Live and Die in LA HERE
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