To Live and Die in L.A. looks like a rich man’s Miami Vice. William Friedkin’s evident attempt to fashion a West Coast equivalent of his  The French Connection is engrossing and diverting enough on a moment-to-moment basis but is overtooled.
Friedkin leaves no doubt about his technical abilities, as he has created another memorable car chase and, with the considerable assistance of cinematographer Robby Muller, has offered up any number of startling and original shots of the characters inhabiting weirdly ugly-beautiful LA cityscapes.
William L. Petersen plays a highly capable Secret Service agent who decides to nail a notorious counterfeiter responsible for the murder of his partner.
Petersen’s search leads him into the kinky, high-tech world of Willem Dafoe, a supremely talented and self-confident artist whose phony $20 bills look magnificent and whose tentacles reach into surprising areas of the criminal underworld, both high and low-class.
Friedkin keeps dialog to a minimum, but what conversation there is proves wildly overloaded with streetwise obscenities, so much so that it becomes something of a joke. [Pic is based on the novel by Gerald Petievich, who co-scripted.]