By Mike Flaherty
Updated December 30, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST
To Live and Die in L.A.: © 2003 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Director William Friedkin, best known for ”The French Connection,” takes amoral cop drama to the Left Coast in To Live and Die in L.A., a film that’s both more vibrant and more nihilistic than that classic, if not its peer otherwise. It’s a kick to watch a lanky, fresh-faced William Petersen (now starring on CBS’s ”CSI”) as a federal agent who — you guessed it — plays by his own rules as he tracks down a sadistic counterfeiting kingpin (a delicious Willem Dafoe). Unfortunately, what was no doubt part of ”L.A.”’s original allure — namely, its sun-bleached rendition of Reagan-era malaise — now lends a time-capsule feel to the proceedings (as does the painful Wang Chung soundtrack).

EXTRAS A making-of doc, ”Counterfeit World,” includes Friedkin’s, Petersen’s, and Dafoe’s thoughtful deconstruction of the plot. Another, shorter feature provides an alternate take on the film’s jaw-dropping climax.