Monday, 23 July 2012

King of New York

"You guys got fat while everybody starved on the street. Now it's my turn"

A New York drug lord Frank White (Christopher Walken) is being driven in his limousine back into the city following his release from prison. His crew are busy taking out a rival Columbian gang who have been encroaching on White’s business while he’s been away. Once he’s back White wastes no time in taking out more of New York’s crime lords and cements himself as the King of New York. Disgruntled that they are never able to get charges to stick, a few wild Police Officers decide that the only way to stop White and his gang is to take them out.

Featuring an impressive cast which alongside Walken includes gangsters Laurence Fishburne, Steve Buscemi, Giancarlo Esposito and Theresa Randle with Cops Wesley Snipes, Victor Argo and David Caruso the film is a tale of good vs evil, but as you’d expect the lines between the two are blurred. Although not in the same league as the likes of Scarface, Carlito’s Way or Serpico all of which share themes with this, it is a decent gangster picture.

The story is fairly basic really. Gang boss gets released from prison; starts to rebuild his empire and the cops try to stop him. There is little new plot wise. The only little twist on the genre is the cop’s tactic of halting the gangster’s operation. I wasn’t really invested in the story or many of the characters though there were some good performances. Much like the plot they were all characters you’ve seen before to some degree or another. There’s the level headed, ice cold killer of a boss, the ostentatious black gangsters, the Irish cops, the Latino middle man, the Mafioso, the Chinese Triads and various scantily clad women. Unfortunately it’s all been seen and done before.

As I say though there are some terrific performances. Christopher Walken delivers a powerful and menacing performance as Frank White. He’s calm and calculating but isn’t afraid to deliver the killer blow. The character also has a side to him which makes the audience empathize with him and the way in which Walken creates this is brilliant. Another great performance is Laurence Fishburne as an arrogant and flashy gangster/killer. He is especially good in the chicken shop scene. Victor Argo is also great.

The highlight of the film for me was the incredible soundtrack. I have somewhat of a puncheon for late 80s Hip-Hop and this film features some of the best that era had to offer with the likes of Party Posse and Schooly D lending songs. The traditional score which is interspersed with the Hip-Hop works well and sounds good. As well as the soundtrack there was also some pretty jazzy dancing, most notably from Walken. It reminded me of the video for Fatboy Slim’s Weapon of Choice, a video I could watch over and over again. (Watch the video here)

In addition as the slightly tired plot another problem with the film is the hair. I’ve never seen such bad hair in a film before. Half the cast sport mullets and Christopher Walken’s is characteristically crazy. I did enjoy the two big shoot-outs. They were both action packed and the first must have had some influence on Grand Theft Auto as it looked just like the sort of shoot-out that game would present. In the end King of New York is an average gangster film but nothing more.


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