King of New York (1990)

Genres - Crime  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Thriller, Gangster Film  |   Release Date - Sep 28, 1990 (USA)  |   Run Time - 103 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom, Italy, United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Scott Engel

With The King of New York, Abel Ferrara takes what could have been a run-of-the-mill shoot-em-up and comes up with a study of inner-city morality. Much like he would do a year later with his masterpiece Bad Lieutenant, Ferrara refuses to let the good guys and bad guys be black and white. Instead, he fills their violent world with grays, seeing the criminals in a sympathetic light and turning a critical eye on the police. Christopher Walken plays Frank White, a drug kingpin whose idea of helping out the neighborhood kids is recruiting subway muggers to become drug dealers while financing a neglected hospital. He takes out rival gangs not to further his business, but because he doesn't like the way others run theirs. His attitude: the drugs are out there, why don't I make a little money off that and help out the city in the process. This doesn't jive with the local cops, particularly Dennis Gilley played by David Caruso. Dennis is a bitter flatfoot who's sick of money floating Frank above the law. He takes matters into his own hands only to see his illegal crusade of street justice go disastrously wrong. The script sometimes underestimates the audience and goes out of the way to connect the dots, but it's still a wild ride. The hidden gem of the film is Laurence Fishburne as Frank's number one guy Jimmy Jump. An appropriate name, for he literally bounces off the walls and cackles hysterically while slicing people down in a spray of bullets. Coming out at the close of the "Just Say No" '80s, The King of New York took a refreshing look at the war on drugs and how it effects the soldiers on the front line.