So, here’s a film, about a drug kingpin, who’s the leader of a crime syndicate in New York City, where he has the reputation of working with mostly black people, and on the other side, the cops in his district are doing their damnedest to get him back behind bars where he should be, or otherwise end his career once and for all. Sound familiar? It should, because Abel Ferrara’s King of New York is pretty much a combination of Scarface, Goodfellas, Once Upon a Time in America, and so many other crime films that have come before it, and even a few after that seemed to do it better. It exists only as an amalgamation of aspects of other films that have done those aspects better, and it is by and large one of the most superfluous entries in the list I’ve seen yet.
Christopher Walken is Frank White, a former drug lord, who is fresh out of a prison sentence and eager to take up where he left off. In doing so, he murders a number of other rival drug dealers in his area, which puts the cops on his trail once again. The rest of the film is pretty much Frank being Frank, and the various bloody and disreputable shenanigans he gets into. Yeah, there’s not much to the plot of this, I’ll admit that. I will give the film this, though; it wouldn’t have worked a quarter as well were it not for Walken in the lead role. He’s not really outstanding, but he does easily carry the film when it otherwise would’ve collapsed into itself. The cinematography was quite colorful, and for once, it was shaped light that formed that color, and not just the post-production color drowning that gets under my skin, so points for that, at least. Still, for some weird reason, all the color just ended up making me feel gray about the film, and the lack of any other noteworthy features only aided this assessment.
Frankly (heh, Frank…), I have no idea why this is on the list. There is virtually nothing that is offered in this film that isn’t offered in other, better films, which are already on the list to begin with. It’s even worse in hindsight, with the plethora of films that would be released after King of New York that manage to do what it does with far more skill and power, and yet I can’t really see myself saying that those other films took from this as an influence; it just wasn’t that influential. Really, aside from the presence of Walken, there is no reason I could come up with why this one didn’t just fade into obscurity with all the other crime films of the 80s and 90s that this seems to emulate. That said, it wasn’t a bad film, so I really can’t give it a bad mark, but neither can I give it a recommendation; if you’ve seen damn near any other film of its kind, and I can almost guarantee that you have, there’s no real reason to watch this one.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10