Friday, March 30, 2012

Film Review--King of New York

KING OF NEW YORK
starring Christopher Walken, David Caruso, Laurence Fishburne, Victor Argo, Wesley Snipes, Steve Buscemi, and Rhea Pearlman as The Beav.

A New York City crime lord (Walken) is released from prison.  When he returns to the streets, he violently wipes out all of his competition, increases drug sales and distribution, and then turns the profits over to the poor and the underprivileged. 

I'm sure that this might not seem like the kind of film that I would review for this blog.  On the surface, it isn't.  It's just that even though this movie came out in 1990, I believe that you can see the beginnings of the types of societal shifts that I normally talk about on this blog.  When there is such a gulf between have and have-not, when the middle ground between rich and poor expands, what else is there but people left up to their own devices?  In this case, it takes a mob boss to rise up and become the hero...and I do use that term loosely...of the day.  A hero played with the obvious flare that one would expect from Christopher Walken.
Abel Ferrara directed the film.  That means that there is no shortage of grimness, of dirt, or filth.  It's real life in the city.  You feel just how low the low lifes are...you feel just how scuzzy the bad cops are.  In terms of the latter, the police are nearly on the same level as the felons they intend to take down.  Perhaps worse.  The "bad guy" in the film is at least trying to do crazy things with his drug money.  Like keep hospitals open in poor neighborhoods and give money to those in need.  There's an unforgettable scene in a restaurant where Laurence Fishburne's character flips a switch from acting like a street tough to tenderly giving a stack of quarters to a couple little kids so that they can play arcade games.
My one complaint is that the latter third of the film ceases to be talkative and exploratory and instead devolves into gangster movie cliches, namely the car chase and the shoot out.  Nevertheless, Ferrara does render the scene under the bridge fraught with tension and in the end disturbingly morbid.  The ending is elusive and yet is not without emotional gravitas.


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