Director William Friedkin's best known movie is "The French Connection," a film that was based on the exploits of real-life, streetwise urban cops and robbers, showed the good guys breaking a few laws of their own and featured a lengthy chase scene.

Friedkin's new film, which opens in Washington tomorrow, is "To Live and Die in L.A." It's based on the exploits of real-life, streetwise urban cops and robbers (mostly, Secret Service agents and counterfeiters). It shows the good guys breaking laws. And it features a lengthy chase scene.

"One of the reasons I liked the book 'To Live and Die' was that it echoed the theme that attracted me to 'The French Connection,' " says Friedkin. "It's about the thin line between the policeman and the criminal. But this movie couldn't have the same sensibility; it couldn't be another total macho image of street life.

"This time, I tried to get an almost surrealistic feel, because there's that kind of quality in a Secret Service agent's life. One day you guard the president, the next you chase down a counterfeiter over a $50 bad check. It's a surrealistic aspect of law enforcement, so I looked for settings that would show the surreal side of L.A., the funky, run-down urban blight surrounded by the industrial complex that's responsible for all the pollution in the L.A. basin. It's not the L.A. of the tourist guidebooks, and most people would need a police escort to drive through, but I found it very beautiful."

As for the chase scene -- which ends with a speeding car going the wrong way on a crowded freeway -- Friedkin says he stayed away from chases for a dozen years because he didn't want to repeat himself and because "new chases are very hard to think up. In 'The French Connection' there were two elements, a guy in a car and a guy on a train. This time I tried to add a kind of Kafkaesque quality, a sense that these people are in danger wherever they go."

He also had more cooperation from the authorities, he says. "On 'The French Connection,' when we wanted to film a traffic jam on the Brooklyn Bridge, we had to create a traffic jam, film in one take and get outta there. For this movie, they gave us the Long Beach Freeway for three weekends . . ."

Most of the time, the problem with a movie advertising budget is stretching the dollars to reach every potential viewer. With Empire Pictures' "Re-Animator," the problem is spending all the money in the budget. No, the critically successful horror film doesn't have an unlimited ad budget -- but it's graphic in the tradition of horror films like "Dawn of the Dead" and it's not rated, and in many markets that's the equivalent of an X rating when it comes to buying ads. In Chicago, for example, Empire could only spend $55,000 of its $85,000 budget because no TV station would accept ads for the film; in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times refused to accept an ad that pictured a scientist standing in front of a severed head. In that case, though, Empire had an alternative: In what might be a first for this kind of movie, they were able to substitute an ad made of quotes from the movie's rave reviews . . .

The Coca-Cola Co. hasn't fared too well in its entry into the film business: Since Coke bought Columbia Pictures, the studio has had so few hits that Coca-Cola pointedly omitted any mention of its film ventures in its recent, otherwise upbeat, quarterly report. Now, according to the Hollywood Reporter, Coca-Cola has commissioned a study titled "Low Budget Motion Pictures," which looks closely at movies made for less than $10 million -- movies that can often recoup their costs through home video and cable markets even if they don't turn a profit in theaters. No telling, though, whether Coca-Cola will attempt to cut budgets at Columbia, where the current biggie in production is "Ishtar," the Warren Beatty/Dustin Hoffman/Elaine May comedy that will need to top the $100 million mark before it makes money . . . Walt Disney wasn't able to land Madonna for the film role that studio had in mind, but now the singer/actress has a tempting offer of an entirely different sort: According to Daily Variety, she's been offered the Brigitte Bardot role in Roger Vadim's remake of his own "And God Created Woman."