Underrated Gem: King of New York (1990)

Plot: A psychotic drug lord leaves prison bent on sharing his profits with the poor, but finds that the streets are tougher than when he left and that there is no way of washing the blood from his dirty money.

I feel like King of New York doesn’t get talked about by enough people which is a shame as it’s arguably Abel Ferrara’s best film and it has an incredible cast including Christopher Walken, Lawrence (then called Larry) Fishburne, Giancarlo Esposito, Wesley Snipes and David Caruso. It’s the kind of violent crime picture we rarely see anymore and I had actually forgotten just how good it is.

I remember seeing an interview with director Abel Ferrara about this film and he mentioned how John Gotti was the inspiration for Frank White which is apparent as he was also nearly impossible for the cops to catch earning the nickname the “Teflon Don”.

Frank is one of Christopher Walken’s best characters and he was so perfectly cast giving his ice cold glacial stare where he comes off as quietly crazy and yet never loses his cool. It’s the kind of tale where you root for the bad guys as the cops aren’t remotely sympathetic. David Caruso and Wesley Snipes play two cops who are so fed up with Frank and his crew literally getting away with murder so, they take it upon themselves to put Frank out of their misery. He and his crew aren’t so easy to put down however, and it all builds up to a bloody showdown.

At an hour and 44 minutes there isn’t any time wasted as there is always a threat of violence and it never takes long for a shoot-out to occur; it’s still hyper violent and also has nudity which is another point in its favour.

Abel Ferrara’s use of light is used to perfection here with the reds and blues which he also uses in his latest movie Padre Pio; he was always great at creating a sleazy and grimy atmosphere and New York feels like a character in itself.

Some of the music is a little dated obviously as it was a product of the time but it works perfectly for the setting and time period.

Overall, if you enjoy violent crime movies with regular shoot-outs and memorable characters then you should give King of New York a shot.