One of the reviewers wrote about "To Live and Die in LA" along the lines of 'if you get it, you get it and if you don't, you don't.' That's it in a nutshell. I think this is an extraordinary crime film, competent sufficiently to stand on it's own 2 legs with Friedkin's other great effort, "The French Connection" and also the interesting and now rarely seen except for late at night "The Seven Ups."
That it was also near introductory roles for Will Petersen and Willem Dafoe almost adds to the rawness of the plot, actors and the roles they play really living on the edge, taking chances. The solitary confinement of 'the job,' the apocryphal manly humor, the viciousness of the bad guys . . . and the good guys, reminds me of McQueen's role in "Bullit," notwithstanding that Bullit's car chase (in that beautiful Mustang) is the only one that comes close to this car chase on the Long Beach Freeway. This one may be the better of the two.
The fine line between the good guys and the bad guys blurs and at times becomes indistinguishable. Also interesting to note is the osmosis whereby, albeit reluctantly, the character played by the confused partner, John Vukovitch (John Pankow) eventually transforms to the character played by Will Petersen (Richard Chance), much like the transformation of Jon Voight into Burt Reynold's character in "Deliverance."
The cinematography is superlative; the techno-rock soundtrack by Wang Chung almost a speaking part throughout the movie. One of the best. 5 stars. Larry Scantlebury