William Friedkin, like many of the directors who rose to prominence in the 1970s, is a curious case. The French Connection and The Exorcist are, I think, indisputable masterpieces, but much of what he's done since then has been, well, uneven at best: Cruising exudes a certain creepy kind of authenticity, but is it really a watchable film? The Guardian feels like a ripoff of The Exorcist with druid mythology and some weird tree thrown in for supernatural color. Blue Chips is passable, but Jade is god awful – a disaster that only an A-list hack like Joe Eszterhas could conceive. And in the last decade, Rules of Engagement was forgettable, The Hunted horrible, and Bug, well, it has its fans but it's certainly not for everyone.
The 1985 film To Live and Die in L.A., meanwhile, is generally regarded as one of his masterpieces, a triumph of nihilistic detachment and visceral energy. Newly released on Blu-ray by the good folks at Fox Home Entertainment, it seemed like a good time to revisit the film and see how well it holds up against decades upon decades of determined cop movies, much less Friedkin's own filmography.