To Live and Die In LA Text Review (With Spoilers)
What the movie with Wang Chung music?
No the movie that explores the world of counterfeiting money, and has a young Willem Dafoe and that dude from CSI William Petersen. I will admit at first, I didn’t know what the hell this movie was about, all I remember was the music in it. But after watching the movie a few more times, I realized that I stumble upon a hidden gem.. and most of the people I asked if they know about this movie, they say “Nope.” This movie is one of the best 80’s movies out there… but still behind Back To The Future and Batman 1989.
So what’s the movie about? Well it’s about a cop named Richard Chance hunting down a notorious counterfeiter name Eric Masters that is basically the dude when it comes to counterfeiting money in LA.
It doesn’t get personal until Masters kills Richard’s partner Thomas Bateman (Played by Robert Downey SR… that’s awesome) when he finds Bateman snooping around one of his hangouts. So basically Chance tries to find Masters in the nasty streets of LA, but not without a new partner John Vukovich.. which Chance doesn’t want. Chance isn’t a prototypical hero, he’s actually a dirty cop that doesn’t abide by the rules. But after the murder of his former partner, he can REALLY give two shits about the rules, and the hunt for Masters becomes an obsession. the complete opposite of his new partner. His new partner is a “Stick to the textbook” cop, but as the movie progresses he slowly turns into the cop that he doesn’t want to become, which is Chance. PAY ATTENTION, I know they are secret service agents, but I just want to call them cops for convenience sake. Chance also has a “Friend” named Bianca Torres that helps out Chance sometimes. But as usual, Willem Dafoe steals the show with his performance as Masters. He plays a ego-maniacal asswipe that gives the law the middle finger, but he plays it cool as he does not showoff. He’s also an artist, so he really knows what the hell he is doing when he’s printing fake cash during the best scene in the movie when he’s printing the dirty money.
We also get a young John Turturro as Carl Cody, one of Masters toadies that get’s caught trying to leave the state by plane. We see him through everything, from trying to leave the state, in the slammer, and getting stabbed at the joint by one of Masters’ partners. By the time he does get murdered, Chance gets him out of the joint in protective custody as Cody can be quite helpful in Chance’s pursuit of Masters. Cody gets away from Chance as he tricks him into going into the hospital for someone that is sick. Chance gets him eventually.
What are the positives of this movie? The characters, this is the perfect example of one of my quotes I made “Make the plot work with the characters, not the other way around.” The characters are all unique, this is a movie that has no true hero by the end of this movie. Sure you say Vukovich is a hero, but no I don’t consider him a hero. He’s a coward at first, it isn’t until the end of the movie that we get to see him grow some balls. Chance goes from normal dirty cop to “The prectint can go fuck themselves, I’m going to get this bastard no matter what.” It’s obvious that he is spun out of his comfort zone with the death of his partner.
The best part of the movie is the story, we get to see the dirty streets of 80’s LA. We get to go to strip bars, the rail tracks, and a gym. Nowhere do we find in this movie that is clean, not a place is safe. Also Masters is the main focus of the movie to me, we get to see an authentic criminal who prints money so that everything around him (Gangs, Drug addicts, and even scumbag lawers) needs him to print the money, at least that’s what I got from the movie. Plus the movie doesn’t go the pussy way out, we get to see Chance being killed at the end.. when I first saw this, I was like “WTF?! They killed chance?!” But for some reason, it really works. It works because this movie is based in reality plus we aren’t really rooting for the guy either, he wasn’t a likeable guy either. I mean he actually kills a FBI informant in the later part of the movie, and he didn’t give a fuck anyway.. even though that means that his partner will be in trouble too. So either way, he wasn’t going to have a happy ending. This movie believes in no happy endings, and I commend the movie for that attitude.
Plus the direction of William Friedkin (The director of such films as THE EXORCIST, THE FRENCH CONNECTION, hell he even directed a few episodes of CSI.) is top notch. He really knew what the hell he was doing, plus he had a few ex-cons telling him how the process of making money is done.. you don’t see that in movies anymore. He also had a eye for locations, because the locations are so perfect for the tone of the movie.
The Wang Chung music is actually pretty good, they also made the score for this movie I believe. I like most of their songs, including “To live and die in LA” But we also get to hear their other songs not originally made for the movie.
I have one gripe with the movie: WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED WITH CODY? We last see him getting captured by Chance… but then nothing. Did he kill Cody, I thought that he wanted him alive or something.. There maybe something I missed, but until I figure it out I’m regarding it as a gaffe.
But other than that, this movie is a very good movie, I highly recommend it, go see it if you haven’t! See the trailer for it at the bottom!