Abel Ferrara is one of those filmmakers who I feel like I should be an expert in. I've spent lots of time reading about his work, and I've seen the work of a lot of his contemporaries, but of films he's actually directed, the only one I'd ever seen prior to this film was The Addiction
, and I saw that WAY too young to make any sense of it. I know all about the films he's made, but they've not had a chance to make an impact on me until now, and you can bet that after screening King of New York
that I'm going to be on the hunt for anything and everything I can get.King of New York
is the story of Frank, Christopher Walken at is Walken-est, a gangster recently released from prison who is intent on taking over the city of New York, naturally. He doesn't waste any time, either, even though Frank is relatively young, he's taking on the more established crime bosses with the kind of bravado and lack of fear that only youth can explain. Frank is a monster, and one who'd shoot his own mother if it got him a little bit closer to claiming his piece of the pie.
Lucky for him, Frank isn't alone, he's got quite a motley crew of henchmen backing him up. Among the street toughs doing Frank's dirty work are a young Lawrence Fishburne and Steve Buscemi, but these are no ordinary hoods, they are born leaders and they are deadly loyal to Frank. In opposition we get early standout performances from David Caruso (priming his disaffected cop role years ahead of NYPD Blue), and a young pissed-off Wesley Snipes. Every time someone new appeared on screen, I was amazed. How had I never seen this film with all of these classic '90s character actors before? It made me a bit giddy, I must admit.
I was honestly too excited about how much I was enjoying King of New York
to really make any academic observations about the film. Having seen the two Ferrara films that I have, it looks to me like he's managed to get himself pegged as kind of an egghead, when that doesn't really appear to be the case. Filmmakers like Ferrara, Sam Fuller, and Sam Peckinpah seem to be made of similar stuff. Men making manly films who are over-analyzed by academics and turned from working directors into auteurs. I know this may be an unpopular opinion, given how snugly the auteur theory's origins are very much tied to the careers of people like Sam Fuller, but I can't help thinking that even if the films share thematic threads, it's not some grand plan.
Abel Ferrara is most definitely an independent, Fuller and Peckinpah were, too, for that matter, but I like to think that they all just made the kind of movies they wanted to see. If they managed to work some of their personal shit out on screen, all the better, but I don't see how that was ever all they were doing. They wanted to make films to entertain, and King of New York
(which is apparently among Ferrara's most commercial films) certainly accomplishes that goal. Though it was released in 1990, it is most definitely a product of the gimme gimme '80s, where greed was king, and New York was the kingdom in which it reigned. Whatever the inspiration, this is a balls out awesome movie that I will definitely be checking out again soon.
Arrow Video's Blu-ray release of King of New York
looks and sounds great. The image is very clean, there is a consistent sheen of natural looking grain, and the '80s neon and the last gasp of super sleazy New York look amazing. I have no complaints about the video. The audio, via an awesome DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, is also fantastic. The shoot outs, of which there are many, all sound great, and the the surround track fills the room nicely. Definitely some good stuff.
King of New York
has been on US Blu-ray for a while now from Lionsgate, and that edition has some great extra material. There are a couple of interesting commentaries along with a longish short called "A Short Film about the Long Career of Abel Ferrara" that appears on that disc and this one. Thankfully, all of that stuff is available on the Arrow Video Blu-ray, along with some new little bits, like an exclusive new interview with Ferrara and some physical extras. This is where Arrow Video clearly pulls away from Lionsgate. The amazing essay in the package is worth the price of admission, but I can't go without mentioned the awesome custom cover art on this steelbook, done by Tom "The Dude Designs" Hodge. It was his first steelbook, I believe, and he knocks it out of the park.
Listen, this film left me a bit dumbfounded and grasping for descriptive words, so my review is not up to my usual standards, but trust me when I say that this disc is DEFINITELY worth your money. Highly recommended!
Arrow Video's King of New York on Blu-ray is Region B locked.