To Live and Die in L.A. (1985) - Rotten Tomatoes

To Live and Die in L.A.1985

To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)



Critic Consensus: With coke fiends, car chases, and Wang Chung galore, To Live and Die in L.A. is perhaps the ultimate '80s action/thriller.

To Live and Die in L.A. Photos

Movie Info

William Friedkin's crime thriller, based on a book by U.S. Secret Service agent Gerald Petievich, concerns an arrogant Secret Service official who wants to get his man at any price. Willem Dafoe plays Eric Masters, an ultra-smooth counterfeiter who has managed to sidestep the police for years. He is so up-front about his dealings, in fact, that when some undercover agents try to make a deal with him at his health club, Eric tells them, "I've been coming to this gym three times a week for five years. I'm an easy guy to find. People know they can trust me." But when young and eager Secret Service agent Richard Chance (William L. Petersen) finds out that his partner has been cold-bloodedly murdered by Eric, he trains his relentlessness upon capturing Eric -- whether it means robbery, murder, or exploiting his friends and associates. As Chance erases the dividing line between good and evil, he drags his new partner John Vukovich (John Pankow) and Ruth Lanier (Darlanne Fluegel), an ex-con, down into the maelstrom with him.


William L. Petersen
as Richard Chance
Willem Dafoe
as Eric Masters
John Pankow
as Vukovich
Robert Downey Sr.
as Thomas Bateman
Valentin de Vargas
as Judge Filo Cedillo
Val DeVargas
as Judge Filo Cedillo
Michael Chong
as Thomas Ling
Jackelyn Giroux
as Claudia Leith
Michael Zand
as Terrorist
Bobby Bass
as FBI Agent
Dar Robinson
as FBI Agent
Katherine M. Louie
as Ticket Agent
Edward Harrell
as Airport Guard
Gilbert Espinoza
as Utro's bartender
Jack Cota
as Agent
Shirley J. White
as Airline Passenger
Gerald H. Brownlee
as Visiting Room Guard
David M. DuFriend
as Tower Guard
Ruben Garcia
as Inmate Guard
Joe Duran
as Prison Guard
Bufort L. McClerkins Jr.
as prison assailant
Gregg G. Dandridge
as Prison Assailant
Donny Williams
as Rice's Friend
Earnest Hart Jr.
as Rice's Friend
Thomas F. Duffy
as 2nd Suspect
Gerald Petievich
as Special Agent
Mark Gash
as Himself
Pat McGroarty
as Criminal
View All

Critic Reviews for To Live and Die in L.A.

All Critics (46) | Top Critics (12)

If Friedkin occasionally goes overboard, he certainly commands an attention-getting technique and manages to tell a fascinating story.

August 22, 2021 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

This movie leaves one feeling just squeamish and bored.

August 22, 2021 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

Comparisons to TV's "Miami Vice" are probably inevitable because of the picture's look and sound track. But "To Live and Die in L.A." is hotter, faster, kinkier, and has better music.

August 22, 2021 | Rating: 8/10 | Full Review…

"To Live and Die in L.A." isn't the prettiest film of the year, but it's one of the best.

August 22, 2021 | Full Review…

Petersen is to be congratulated for creating a solid character out of a film that likes its decor and soundtrack more than its actors.

August 22, 2021 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

"To Live and Die in L.A." will live briefly and die quickly in L.A., where God hath no wrath like a studio executive with bad grosses.

January 2, 2018 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for To Live and Die in L.A.


An explosive thriller very well directed by William Friedkin, with great performances, many awesome action scenes - especially an exhilarating car chase - and a morally thought-provoking story that culminates in a fantastic, shocking ending.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


'To Live and Die in L.A.' is ultimately something of a snorefest; watch this with even a grain of lethargy and you'll be lost. And that's a shame, because there is much artistic merit to be found in the film. The killer Wang Chung soundtrack compliments stylish sequences throughout, and is especially effective when capturing the Los Angeles landscape. The opening montage is very striking both visually and aurally; the sequence showing Master's counterfeiting procedure is also a pleasure to watch. Sadly though, the first twenty minutes and the closing credits of the film are the most interesting and engaging. Even its stylistic flair becomes tired, Wang Chung being overused and placed in sequences that just don't require it. To Live and Die in L.A. could've been far tauter; it rouses you from your catatonic state only a few times with its surprising gore and of course that famous lengthy car chase. The premise is simply Richard Chance's (William L. Peterson) relentless pursuit of a murderous counterfeiter named Eric Masters (Willem Dafoe) who has killed Chance's partner and 'best friend for seven years'. Chance, his safety hindered in the haze of his own hubris, is prepared to do whatever it takes to put an end to masters, even if it means breaking the law he enforces. Peterson's anti-hero isn't without his clichés: when presented with new partner John Vukovich (John Pankow), the film indulges in the common 'You know I work alone' cliché. In its entirety, To Live and Die in L.A. is a superficial, viewer-unfriendly production that just doesn't engage it's audience; the characters are flat and the plot is bloated and hard to follow. Its aesthetic redeeming features are seldom found over the course of 1hr 56 minutes, and even if there were more, it wouldn't save this film from its unsubstantiated characters and narrative.

Jack Hawkins
Jack Hawkins

Super Reviewer


I don't throw around the term neo-noir lightly, but this film has the body of your average 80's cop thriller, with the heart and soul of a noir. William Petersen is good here as the hard-boiled and morally ambivalent detective Chance. As for Friedkin, whether he wants to admit it or not, is not a God. But he does know how to craft a compelling film. Although this is not as captivating as the French Connection or the Exorcist, the action scenes are still very impressive and shot with vigor. He takes chances that really elevate the material in a lot of ways. The story is a bit messy and the film is steeped in the 80's aesthetic which unfortunately does not age well. However, it is much better than you would expect of your average thriller.

Reid Volk
Reid Volk

Super Reviewer

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