To Live and Die in L.A. | Chicago Reader

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A B-movie script about a U.S. Treasury agent (William L. Petersen) who will stop at nothing to nail a diabolical counterfeiter (Willem Dafoe), treated in a kinky, weirdly aestheticized manner by William Friedkin; it's like an episode of Miami Vice directed by Helmut Newton. Friedkin seems to take the screenplay only as an excuse to display a range of postmodernist colors and lighting effects (beautifully captured by cinematographer Robby Muller), never really connecting with the characters or the situations. But at the same time, he's clearly magnetized by the story's sexual subtext (the battle between the two men becomes some strange, violent ritual of seduction and possession), and the general affectlessness of the proceedings is punctuated by rhapsodic images of male power and destructiveness. Friedkin isn't nearly in enough control of his material for the film to qualify as an artwork, yet it's one of his few films with a real emotional current. With John Pankow, Debra Feuer, and Dean Stockwell.

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