To Live and Die in L.A. (William Friedkin, 1985)
William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in L.A. (1985) starts off delightfully silly, similarly to other unhinged cop movies from the era (Russell Mulcahy’s 1991 film Ricochet comes to mind). But that silliness later goes awry and everything breaks down, specifically around the time of the spectacular car chase around and on the L.A. river. Another stylist of Los Angeles like Michael Mann would have probably shot this sequence differently: the tension and stress in worrying whether the main characters were going to make it would still be there, but we’d be able to hold on to the knowledge that they are either super experienced (1995’s Heat) or preternaturally good at everything they do (2015’s Blackhat). What we get instead with Friedkin is a sensation similar to that felt during the car chase in his earlier effort The French Connection (1971): a sense of freefalling as terrifying as it is exhilarating (Friedkin lays out the comparison himself, juxtaposing shots of the chase with images from the hero's base jumping session earlier in the film). We cannot count on this daredevil Secret Agent — who is literally named Chance — to calculate the risks he’s taking.
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