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Prince of the City (1981) [Region 2] [import]

Treat Williams , Jerry Orbach , Sidney Lumet    DVD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: 14.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Prince of the City (1981) [Region 2] [import] + The Verdict [1982] [DVD]
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Product details

  • Actors: Treat Williams, Jerry Orbach, Richard Foronjy, Don Billett, Kenny Marino
  • Directors: Sidney Lumet
  • Format: PAL, Import
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: Dutch, English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Studio: Warner
  • Run Time: 106 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 50,872 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
I just hope my English is good enough to write a review. Anyway, this film is so big and overwhelming I could not resist.

The film tells the story on a group of policemen who are chasing drug dealers. They're successful and sometimes they offer themselves extra pleasure with the drug money they confiscated. But one of the policemen, Danny Ciello (Treat Williams), has some doubts about the way they're doing their job. And when an officer of Internal Affairs contacts him about corruption inside the NYPD, he starts to talk. Just about some small affairs in the beginning. Danny Ciello gets wired and tapes conversations with gang members who talk about their contacts with policemen. Ciello hopes to redeem himself and the members of his group. But once the ball is rolling, there's no stopping it. And Ciello ends alone, protected by the officers of Internal Affairs, who can't give him the comradeship he used to have.

The very last scene of this movie is really heartbreaking. But in such a way, that I'm still grateful to Sidney Lumet and Treat Williams.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The flipside of the French Connection 27 May 2009
A recurrent feature in Lumet's work has been policing and police corruption. This film is powerful addition to that ouvre.

The film is set at the same time as the French Connection and indeed it focusses on the same unit depicted in that film. However where Friedkin, the director of The French Connection, focussed on car chases and glorifying police power and summary executions this movie deals with the uncomfortable fact that the unit was one of the most corrupt in NYPD history.

And yet, the film avoids caractures and simple explanations. The cops are still decent and likable people despite their excesses and hence the difficulty of the central character's decision to expose them is never shirked. Justice when it comes is a sad thing with no fanfare and often with tragic consequences.

In some respects this film might be seen as a precursor to "The Wire", where tension and entertainment are derived from the dilemmas of the characters and the painstaking detail of the investigation and the subsequent court cases rather than from action set pieces.

A gripping, rarely remembered meditation on policing, corruption and the price of redemption from one of the all time great directors.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By Stephanie De Pue TOP 1000 REVIEWER
"Prince of the City," (1981), is a dramatic thriller that is actually set in the 1970s in New York City. It's based on a non-fiction book by former New York Police Department Deputy Commissioner Robert Daley, and tells the tale of the Knapp Commission, headed up by Judge Whitman Knapp, that was investigating police corruption at the time, and of Detective Bob Leucci (called Dan Ciello in the movie), whose conscience eventually forced him to cooperate with it. The Daley book was adapted for the screen by Sidney Lumet, always a great director of New York City-based stories, working with his frequent collaborator, Jay Presson Allen; Lumet also directed, some say as an apology to the NYPD for how negatively he had treated them in his previous film on the same subject, Serpico [DVD] [1973] that starred Al Pacino as the beleaguered cop trying to come clean.

To begin with, "Prince," is both long - the director's cut requires two DVD's, and slow, with very little overt action, or violence. Treat Williams turns in one of his strongest performances as the title character, Danny Ciello, a NYC police detective in the Special Investigations Unit, in which, at the time, its plain clothes members were given such freedom of action as to earn the nickname "Princes of the City." He and the men in his unit work in narcotics, and are enriching themselves quite nicely: they are suspected, among other misdeeds, of having stolen, and peddled at a profit, the huge haul of drugs resulting from the famous French Connection case. (See
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.8 out of 5 stars  51 reviews
54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gritty and Compelling Police Drama 16 Mar 2005
By Dumb Ox - Published on
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Some spoilers within; do not read if trying not to find out plot developments.

This is a film that was inexcusably blown off at the Oscars. It richly deserved the awards it never received. Lifted straight from the book with only minor name changes, Prince of the City was a compelling look into the world of a narcotics detective as he brings about his unit's downfall. Danny Cielo (Treat Williams) is the cop who belatedly develops a conscience and rebels against what he and his men have become in their war on drugs; they've corrupted themselves to nail the corrupt and maintain their fantastically high arrest and conviction rate.

At first, Cielo has no intention of turning in his unit. He actually tries only to go after the criminals. However, in making a deal with the feds he's made a deal with the devil. The prosecutors realize they have a gold mine in Cielo and dig into him for all the information they can obtain. Little by little, the circle tightens like a noose around Cielo until he ends up fingering his mentor, then his own men. For a cop to rat on fellow cops is a deeply imprinted anamoly, an affront to the brotherhood that binds the police more tightly than blood ties. Cielo disintegrates under the pressure and agonies of his betrayals, shaking and crying, popping Valium to alleviate his tortured guilt. Around him, his men rat each other out and one even commits suicide. Only one is strong enough to withstand the feds: Gus Levy (Jerry Orbach), who marches into the office of a weasely prosecutor to tip his desk onto him and offers to toss him through the window of his high-rise building. At the end, Levy despises Cielo for his decision, and though Danny has done the right thing in the eyes of the law, he suffers as a pariah in the view of some of his fellow police officers.

This is a great piece of cinema. The direction is tight, the acting fantastic, and the dialogue heavily laced with coarse language that deepens the realism. Treat Williams never again received a role or acted so well as he did in this film. Jerry Orbach was so immersed in his part that Dick Wolf wanted him as a detective on Law & Order after seeing him portray Gus Levy. Sidney Lumet sculpted this movie into an intense drama that, while long, is never boring. Done by Lumet as an apology for his hatchet job on the NYPD in Serpico, this film succeeds in more ways than mere atonement; it is brilliant in its own right and ends more ambiguously, letting the viewer sort out who did the right thing. This is an excellent movie, highly recommended for those who enjoy tough moral dilemmas and superb cinema craftsmanship.
37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lumet's Greatest Film 4 Jun 2001
By Mr. Cairene - Published on
There once was a kingdom ruled over by a fair and righteous king. One day, an evil witch descended upon the well from which the people drank, and poisoned the water. The very next day everyone but the righteous king drank the poisoned water. And they all went insane. All but the king that is. For several days after, the people wondered aloud, "What happened to our king," they shouted in the streets, "Has he gone insane?" So the king went and drank from the poisoned water, and everything was well again.
That is the story Al Pacino's girlfriend tells him late in "Serpico", Sidney Lumet's celebrated 1973 true-life tale about police corruption and one's man's obstinate stand against it. Apart from Pacino's performance as Frank Serpico, that film was a compromised moral drama, thrown haphazardly together to fit a commercial running time. The success of "Dog Day Afternoon" (1975) and "Network" (1976) then allowed Lumet to make Prince of The City, unquestionably his greatest work, and worthy of the story of the king. As a piece of narrative it ignores all the established rules: There are no acts (first, second or third). There are no heroes, and no villains. There are no gun battles or showdowns. This, for its entire three hour running time, is an account of a cop who decides to blow the whistle on corruption, and the legal repercussions that ensue. Unlike Serpico, Det. Daniel Ciello (Treat Williams) is no saint. He does what, in his view, needs to be done. And given the nature of power, a lot more. On his own accord, he heads to the Chase commission, where he decides to "do the right thing", and confess. His one condition? He won't rat on his partners. He knows them to be good men. We see them at his luxurious two-story house. They are cordial, pleasant, brotherly. When he states his condition to the government lawyers, he says, "I sleep with my wife. But I live with my partners."
Except the forces that be don't see things the way he does. Ciello and his partners are the Special Investigative Unit for Narcotics, the "Princes of the city". They have citywide jurisdiction and are virtually unsupervised. When they make a bust they A) Keep the drug dealer's money. B) Sell the drug dealer his freedom. Or C) Arrest him and take his money. They have reasons too. You see, a drug dealer without money would never be able to buy another cop, a DA or a judge. And if they don't have enough evidence to convict anyway, they may as well have the money. This group of cops, as they have no doubt explained to themselves, tens if not hundreds of times, have a moral right to scam the dealers. They have a moral imperative to keep their junkie stoolies (snitches) supplied with Heroin. Yes they do this for the information, but also because, "a junkie will break your heart." The practice of giving Heroin, according to the government lawyers, is exactly the same as dealing. Legally, they are as culpable as drug dealers. And the moral haze thickens.
No one joins the police force to become a bad guy. That is why Lumet, whose films are basically about the subjectivity of right and wrong, is fascinated with cops. They are not gangsters, who, as depicted in Scorsese's Goodfellas, are more about the money and "the life" than a mythical code of honor. For cops (even those who beat protestors or torture prisoners around the world) there has been, in most cases, a point where they justified their actions. In Prince of The City, Lumet affords all his characters, including the tens of government lawyers, an unfeigned authenticity that makes every scene in the film riveting. For every odious act performed against, or by a cop (or even a lawyer), there's an underlying moral position. The moral complexity of Lumet's best work lies in the assumption that pure evil does not exist.
What sets Prince of the City apart (and what earns it comparisons to the films of Martin Scorsese) is the unusual strength of its characters. Lumet, who co-wrote the screenplay, something he does not do often, employs a strangely effective technique. Instead of a narration, there are regular grim stills of the ID Cards of the characters involved accompanied by quotations such as "nobody cares about you but your partners", and "I'll be telling lies for the rest of my life". The whole film then takes a feel of a postmortem documentary. The stills are there because the characters involved, probably for calamitous reasons, need to be identified. The quotations are the leads character's regrets. And as Ciello, Treat Williams gives a forceful performance that requires him to be in every scene. His character's quest for absolution closely resembles that of Charlie in Scorsese's Mean Streets. Why did this successful "Prince of the City" decide to voluntarily confess his trespasses, throwing all his riches away? Maybe the sight of starved junkie, shivering in abandoned warehouse, begging him for drugs didn't seem like much of a kingdom.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NYC Cops Are Human Beings 7 Aug 2007
By Quilmiense - Published on
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Almost 3 hours long and worth every minute. As great a cops and mafia film as there are, even comparable to the Godfather saga (I & II). Danny Ciello is a policeman hero, though technically he may be a criminal. These kind of police are the only people that stand between the comfortable beaurocracy class of lawyers and politicians and the jungle of drugadicts and all sorts of criminals. They do the dirty job the talkers won't do but appreciate as long as they themselves don't get caught (anything comparable to Plato's Republic, maybe?)

The question the film poses to the audience is: Do you approve -or not- this kind of police behavior? I say that the law was made for man, and not the other way round. We mustn't miss the aim of the law, lest we get entangled in our own web and become pharisaic.

This is another great Sidney Lumet classic, beautiful and entertaining; it makes you think over and over again about the issues exposed here. It has a great script. The leading actor does superbly. Directed talentedly, detachedly, not too overdramatic.

The thing I like about Lumet's films (the best director in the second half of the 20th century) is that he talks about human nature. His films are not just stories, things that happen as part of a plot. They are little revelations of the human soul. They talk about who more than what. And it's whom we really care for, isn't it? The issues are eternal: love, friendship, faithfulness, resilience, repentence, redemption... everything that separates us from animals, and everything is put to the test, the test of real life situations: where the rubber meets the road (as the great Christian Vernon McGee would say).

A classic but also a great modern film. I recommend Lumet's other great film, besides "12 Angry men", which is "The Hill".
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping Tale of Police Corruption 28 May 2007
By David Baldwin - Published on
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
About ten years ago, I picked up a paperback of Robert Daley's "Prince of the City". I found Daley's account of corruption in the ranks of the New York City Police Department and the Knapp Commision hearings mesmerizing. This led me to Peter Maas' "Serpico". Naturally I hunted down the two films that director Sidney Lumet based on these books. As much as I liked "Serpico" I found "Prince of the City" a much more compelling story. I think this has more to do with the fact that Danny Ciello(Bob Leuci in the book) is a much more enigmatic figure than Frank Serpico. Serpico was a maverick but there was no questioning his integrity. Ciello's motives for blowing the whistle are a little more problematic. As a high profile narcotics detective, Ciello took bribes from organized crime figures and provided his stoolies with drugs among his many sundry offences. Now you can say that a lot of what Ciello did were necessary evils in conducting his day to day affairs but he also feathered his own personal nest. When he decides to go clean with the Commision he wants to do it on his own terms, meaning he'll bring down people he has a personal distaste for but not his friends on the force or his partners. Ciello's handlers have a different agenda, however, that doesn't naturally cohere with his. "Prince of the City" is a long film but it never sags. Aside from Lumet's crisp direction he also has crafted an engrossingly complex script with Jay Presson Allen. Treat Williams as Ciello gives a wrenching account of a man in turmoil. This is the kind of performance that gets overlooked probably because Ciello is a morally ambiguous figure. This is one of the great American films of the Eighties and one for all time.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wait Is Finally Over 27 Feb 2007
By Frank C. Desmier - Published on
Since the begining of the DVD era I have searched fo this movie constantly.

I really can't believe how long it has taken to be presented in this format, but after May 2007 I'm sure all will be forgiven.

I won't go into the specifics of the plot as that has been covered in so many reviews here already.

Those of you who have already seen it need not read any further, as I'm sure I would just be preaching to the converted, but to those Prince Of The City "virgins" I say "Turn off the lights, close the blinds and switch off your phone".

For the next 167 minutes you're out!

I hope you enjoy this movie.

This is Sidney Lumet's finest work and while others see him as a great director, this movie shows him as one of the great storytellers.

Only a true genius of this medium could keep you riveted to the screen for nearly three hour.

When the movie is over you can join the rest of us in wondering where are all the awards are.

It's hard to believe that a movie this good could be so over looked throughout the award season.

I'll save you the trouble of looking it up, the Oscar for the best movie in 1981 was Chariots Of Fire.

And on that I'll leave the final word with Dr. Phil.

"What were they thinkin'?'
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