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A FEDERAL AGENT IS DEAD. A KILLER IS LOOSE. AND THE CITY OF ANGELS IS ABOUT TO EXPLODE.

In the seventies William Friedkin made The French Connection, The Exorcist and Sorcerer. In the eighties he equalled them with To Live and Die in L.A., one of the most stylish thrillers the decade had to offer.

When his partner is murdered just days before retirement, Secret Service Agent Richard Chance (William Petersen, Manhunter) begins an obsessive hunt for his killer – counterfeiter and all-round psychopath Eric Masters, played by Willem Dafoe at his villainous prime.

Beautifully shot by Robby Muller (Repo Man, Paris, Texas) and with a driving score with British new wave act Wang Chung, To Live and Die in L.A. looks and sounds exceptional in this brand-new 4K restoration from the original 35mm negative.
(Taken from the official synopsis.)

Video


As noted above, this release of the film is derived from a new 4K scan of the original negative. The resultant image is, for the most part, impressively detailed, with the sort of finely resolved grain structure one would expect from a 4K scan. The grain does spike a little during the opening credits, but I put this down to the optical effects used for the bright neon titles. Although I confess I have no way of knowing if the colour palette is theatrically accurate, the fact that director William Friedkin supervised and approved transfer carries some weight. Then again, Friedkin also approved the Blu-ray releases of The French Connection… However, things look natural enough for the most part, although flesh tones do look a little too orange for my liking. Contrast is fine and shadow detail remains acceptable throughout. The image is generally very clean, although not spotlessly so as I saw a few black and white specks here and there. Compression is up to David McKenzie’s usual high standards, so there are no problems there. All in all this is a very fine presentation that trounces the US MGM disc (at least going by the screen captures I've seen).

Audio


The disc offers a choice between the original stereo soundtrack in LPCM or a remixed DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 effort. I sampled both for the purposes of this review, listening to the film’s opening ten minutes with the 5.1 audio, then going back and flipping between it and the stereo track to compare. I swiftly decided that the multi-channel track sounded a little too thin and artificial for my liking, so I stuck with the stereo for the rest of the film. It just sounds more natural to my ears, but at least there are options for those who enjoy remixes. As for the stereo itself, while there can be no mistaking the era from which it hails, fidelity is good, if limited by the source material. It’s not a terribly dynamic affair, but gunshots and explosions are reinforced by some reasonable bass. Wang Chung’s soundtrack also comes through loud and clear and the various elements are well balanced. It sounds, well, authentic, if not tremendously impressive by today's standards. Still, the ultimate aim of any restoration is surely to accurately mirror the original theatrical experience as closely as possible, so in this respect it does a fine job.

Extras


Arrow’s release of To Live and Die in L.A. includes a wealth of bonus content, including everything from the old US MGM Blu-ray (including the terrible alternate ending). Here's a complete breakdown of what you'll find on the disc.

  • Audio commentary by director and co-writer William Friedkin
  • Taking a Chance, a brand-new interview with actor William Petersen
  • Doctor for a Day, a brand-new interview with actor Dwier Brown
  • Renaissance Woman in L.A., a brand-new interview with Debra Feuer
  • So In Phase: Scoring To Live and Die in L.A., a brand-new interview with composers Wang Chung
  • Wrong Way: The Stunts of To Live and Die in L.A., a brand-new interview with stunt co-ordinator Buddy Joe Hooker
  • Counterfeit World: The Making of To Live and Die in L.A., an archive featurette containing interviews with Friedkin, actors Petersen and Willem Dafoe, and others
  • Alternative ending
  • Deleted scene
  • Stills gallery
  • Trailers
  • Radio spot
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil

Overall


I confess that I wasn’t particularly enamoured of To Live and Die in L.A., which came as a surprise given its high-profile director and cast. I found it a little too clichéd for my liking, with a ponderous opening hour or so and protagonists whose actions stretched the boundaries of credibility to breaking point (how Billy Petersen’s character ever became a secret service agent I’ll never know; he’s utterly incompetent!). I can appreciate why the film has its fans, but although I enjoy similar pictures from the era I just didn’t get on with this film. Arrow’s Blu-ray release lives up to its usual high standards though. The 4K transfer isn’t totally perfect, but it is a significant improvement on the MGM Blu-ray in a number of respects and the inclusion of the original stereo audio is a big plus in my book. The extras are also plentiful and of high quality. I wholeheartedly recommend this to fans, but if you’ve never seen the film before my advice would be to tread cautiously.

* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.

 To Live And Die In L.A.
 To Live And Die In L.A.
 To Live And Die In L.A.
 To Live And Die In L.A.
 To Live And Die In L.A.
 To Live And Die In L.A.
 To Live And Die In L.A.
 To Live And Die In L.A.


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