Tuesday, December 3, 2013

816. King of New York (1990)

Running Time: 103 minutes
Directed By: Abel Ferrara
Written By: Nicholas St. John
Main Cast: Christopher Walken, Laurence Fishburne, David Caruso, Victor Argo, Janet Julian
Click here to view the trailer


Moving right along, back tracking my way through (probably) my favorite decade - the decade of the 90s. Hey, I was born in the 90s, so for all of you 90s haters, I'm sorry, but almost all of my childhood memories took place in that decade. Anyway, we're talking about Christopher Walken and "King of New York".

The film is your basic, run of the mill crime drama, except it features a few knockout performances, which helps to set it a little higher than your usual "drug lords running rampant in the city" picture. Walken is Frank White, who's just been released from prison and wants to reintroduce himself into the criminal underworld of The Big Apple. His partners in crime are a group of gold chain wearing thugs, lead by Jimmy Jump (Fishburne), White's brother in crime. Frank makes it known to all of the different factions of the criminal under belly, that he is back in town and wants a piece of everyone's action. "If someone sells a nickel bag in the Central Park, I want in on it" says White, moments before blowing away a top notch foe in the crime business. Meanwhile, the film also follows a group of cops who want nothing more than to bring Frank White to his knees, by any means necessary. The cops are lead by Bishop (Argo), followed by Gilley (Caruso) & Flanigan (Wesley Snipes).

I had seen this movie once before, many many years ago and as I started it up last night, I remembered that viewing and remembered hating this film. The truth is, I was probably much too young to really appreciate it (or even be watching it, for that matter) and so I didn't hold my previous opinion against the film, but rather decided early to be ready to form a new one. In the end, I can say that the film isn't bad in the slightest and is only a few notches away from being really good. The things I didn't like were more nit picky than anything, but a few major flaws kept it from really winning me over. For starters, I'll say that the film didn't feel like anything special. It just felt like one of those direct to video films that were popular in the 90s, with excessive nudity and violence, put in place to lure viewers. The thing is though, is that you've got Christopher Walken in there giving this AMAZING performance and so, it kind of washes away that straight to video feeling and you quickly realize that there's a parade of talent being displayed right in front of your eyes. Not just Walken, but David Caruso and Laurence Fishburne turn in ultra fine performances, everybody proving that they can play both good & bad with just the flick of their eyebrows.


While I'm not a fan of the "everyone dies at the end" ending, it does work here and when it came to wrapping up this film, I think we can all agree that the bleaker it was, the better. I'm also not necessarily a fan of movies that give us literally no one to root for, but again, this film pretty much makes it work and I guess Frank White is the one whose side we're supposed to be on. THE BOOK notes that Frank, by wanting to build a hospital, is trying to atone for his past sins, but I didn't see it that way. I saw Frank as this guy who wanted to be in the crime business, who liked being the crime business, but who also liked doing the right thing. He notes that he's killed no one that didn't deserve it and I feel like he's an honest criminal, yet a powerful one. THE BOOK also notes that the NYC that "King of New York" depicts is like a Gotham City and I couldn't agree more and thank THE BOOK for pointing that out. I kind of wish they'd have included "Bad Lieutenant" instead, as I've always wanted to see that and even THE BOOK notes it as being another of Ferrara's strong films. Guess I'll have to see it without THE BOOK'S guidance.

Anyway, this is a fine film. While I really can't point to any particular flaws, I just don't think it feels special enough to be considered a classic or anything. The performances are about the only thing classic about it and the rest is just slightly above average. It's a fine way to spend two hours and I think most will come out agreeing that they've just seen a totally solid film.

RATING: 6.5/10  If it would grow on me just a little bit, it might be strong enough to make a TEN WORTH MENTIONING spot, but otherwise I can't see it having any lasting impact on me.


December 3, 2013  6:18pm


  1. An adequate crime boss film that is what it sets out to be. As you say in your conclusion.. nothing all that wrong with it, but nothing to make it stand out from the hundreds of other crime gang flicks.

    1. I like it better when we agree. So we're agreed here...


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