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on 10 March 2005
I love this film, it never gets old. It's blend of grim urban landscapes, clever intelligent plot and visceral action puts it miles ahead of almost any other crime movie you care to name, and it can stand with it's head held high as a classic on a par with the greats of the late 80s thru 90s gangster movie era, like Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, Heat and Pulp Fiction.
It's been overlooked somewhat in the face of such high profile company, but to be honest, this and Reservoir Dogs are the ones I keep coming back to. The characters are richly drawn and morally ambiguous in a fashion that makes it far more realistic than other crime films, as the cops are just as crooked as the gangsters, if not more, and you find yourself rooting for Walken and Fishburne throughout, as main cop Caruso is a nasty vile character despite being on 'the right side of the law'. Speaking of which the acting from the three leads is absolutely fantastic. Walken and Caruso are as charismatic and mesmerising as ever, but it's the young Fishburne (previous to this, he had had few leads in movies) who amazes as the hip young drug dealer, and almost steals Walken's show.
But make no mistake, it is Walken's show. His presence in this movie is riveting, and he manages to make the psychotic Frank believable as a man trying to do right somehow through his twisted system of morals. You don't want to sympathise with him but somehow Walken makes you, and this is the movie's greatest achievement, like Reservoir Dogs after it, you want the 'Bad guys' to win or at least get out alive.
As a movie, it's absolutely essential viewing for anyone with an interest in this kind of film, and a damn good view for anyone else too. To be honest this is one of my favourite films of all time, and it very much snuck up on me. An underground classic.
As to the DVD, if you like extras as much as the movie itself, this is not a great DVD on account of the complete lack of anything except the movie and the menu system, but it is cheap, and it is a brilliant film, so I would still recommend it despite the lack of extras.
On a final note, the people who say this movie is violent are right. This is not for the weak of stomach as it is visceral and bloody, even in comparison to Reservoir Dogs. As far as violence goes this is probably one of the most graphic and dark crime films I've seen. So if you hate film violence, it'll probably not be for you.
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on 6 July 2012
Sorry... best title I could come up with.

One of these days, I should review a genuine DNR disaster (hey, I hear 'Predator''s going pretty cheap these days). Sadly, Arrow's latest release, 'King of New York', features a visible, well handled grain structure and plenty of detail, meaning I can't complain too much. While medium shots convey a pleasant enough level of fine detail, most close-ups are absolutely striking. Add in a real sense of depth, and Walken's remorseless visage has never looked so unnerving.

Colours also impress. Skin tones never look glaringly unnatural, while blood splatters the walls with rich enthusiasm. One scene, set in a dingy nightclub and lit entirely in blue, would be a prime contender for colour bleeding, but the picture remains stable throughout.

It's funny... the pasty blacks of 'Demons' came under heavy fire, but Arrow appear to have done a complete 180 here. Deep, dark, inky etc. with nary a compression artefact to be found, 'King' is mightily impressive in this department. I wouldn't completely rule out black crush, but I also wouldn't bother looking for any.

Nor should you go searching for edge enhancement, because there's virtually none of that either. This is a clean, natural-looking transfer that easily bests any previous releases.

Audio wise, the film's Stereo track is perfect. Strong, clear and precise - it's a faithful presentation of how 'King' was always meant to be heard. One or two lines of dialogue are barely comprehendible, but that's no fault of the disc (and can be easily rectified via the quick application of subtitles).

The 5.1 DTS-HD track is... another story, however. I read a few horror stories concerning earlier DVD versions featuring terrible audio, and it seems as though that infamous mix has made a return. It's a mess - the exact opposite of the stereo track, and it's almost as though there's one of those industrial-sized hand dryers you find in public toilets blowing throughout the whole thing. Worryingly, this is the disc's default track, so remember to switch it over before starting the film.

But barring the 5.1 misfire, I'd go out on a limb and state that 'King' is by far Arrow's best presentation to date. A pat on the back to all involved, and for the love of all that is cute and fluffy, PLEASE don't mess up 'Zombie Flesh Eaters'.

Onto the extra features, and it's almost all about Ferrara. There's a brand new interview with the man himself that runs for almost thirty minutes. This one is particularly revealing. He takes a gruff and sincere look back at a period of filmmaking that clearly doesn't exist anymore. And amidst all the factoids and anecdotes, you can even devise a fatal drinking game around how often Ferrara says "you know".

`A Short Film about the Long Career of Abel Ferrara' is a lengthy documentary in which his past collaborators discuss their work with the independent director, while `Abel Ferrara: Not Guilty' is a feature length doco that presents Abel at his most... Ferrariest.

Ferrara also pops up on one of the two featured audio commentaries. His chat track is surly to the extreme (telling us outright that he's been paid five thousand dollars to record it), but certainly an entertaining listen (he gets very excited during Steve Buscemi's brief appearances). Meanwhile, the second commentary is a chatty and enjoyable affair with several key crew members.

An interview with producer Augusto Caminito is the only other totally Abel-free extra. This is a relaxed account of 'King''s development that reveals its Italian connections, and the often memorable experiences had while working with Ferrara and Walken.

Then there're the obligatory trailers, a neat little booklet, and some excellent new artwork by Tom "The Dude Designs" Hodge that looks especially great on this very purple SteelBook edition.

Verdict

Again, if we ignore the 5.1 track, this has got to be Arrow's best work. Hardcore fans will be ecstatic when they pop 'King of New York' in, and once done with the film, there's a meaty selection of extras to plough through.

It helps that the film is great, too.
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King of New York is a brilliant film, and WOW!! the Blu-ray transfer is beautiful, you could say picture perfect.

And the Blu-ray quality gets a massive 5/5 from me, but the surround sound which is in DTS 5.1 is just awful, not sure what happened to the mix? because the sound was all over the place, which was such a shame considering how good the picture quality was, plus I don't remember having the same problem with my DVD copy. So for me this release is a waste of time because the sound spoils the film.

You get a nice revisable cover but no booklet, which is rare from Arrow.
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HALL OF FAMEon 24 February 2012
A finer odd-ball, stylish, violent crime drama I've yet to see. King of New York gives us the rise and fall of Frank White (Christopher Walken), a quiet drug king released from prison who now wants to built a hospital in the South Bronx. The movie is mesmerizing in its corrupted morality, which includes us. We wind up hoping Frank gets away with it. The violence is dramatic and uncomfortably funny. Even the cops are as bad as some of Frank's gang, and that's saying a lot.

Cocaine is the currency of choice, and we see plenty of it -- in piles, in bags, in casks, in lines and in noses. The movie is dominated by men, but even the women -- girl friends, lawyers, mistresses -- all have a role to play, even if its just to be bare breasted and to do a lot of sniffing.

The cast features major dynamic performances from actors such as Lawrence Fishburne, David Caruso and Wesley Snipes. Fishburne turns in a virtuoso performance, whether gunning down the opposition with a revolver blazing in each hand, or ordering chicken, ribs, fish with tartar sauce and hold the potato salad. Even the smallest roles are vivid, featuring bits from Steve Buscemi, John Tuturro and Paul Calderon, among others. Victor Argo plays Frank's nemesis, tired and honorable Detective Roy Bishop, excellently.

Towering over them all is a fascinating, dominating performance by Christopher Walken. He doesn't show much emotion from Frank about anything. Still, "I never killed anybody who didn't deserve it.". He's right, in a queasy kind of way. Walken's Frank White dominates the movie. It's one of Walken's best performances.
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*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Frank White, a drug lord of New York, is released from prison and plans to make a more positive mark on the city. But after reuniting with his loyal and violence hungry gang, he finds the odds are very much stacked up against him. Not only has New York changed for the worse, being run by incompetent pretenders to his crown, but the police force are also after his head, dead or alive!

First time viewers to this picture should not go into it expecting some Scarface type gangster movie, I made that mistake almost 17 years ago and came out the cinema totally cheesed off! Revisiting the film now has opened up a whole new ream of delights that when put together have created a simmering, and brutal piece of work. What director Abel Ferrara has managed to do here is portray a fable of how a leopard never changes its spots, even tho it wants too. Frank White here a victim of his own past doings, with his reputation on the wane and the authorities with long and unforgiving memories.

What hits the most (outside of some brilliant acting) is Abel Ferrara's bleak yet gorgeous vision of a sin city Big Apple, the characters are all one step away from a death, that we the audience, hope comes swift and nasty, all cloaked in this plink plink lighted vision of the underworld. Ferrara choosing to pace his picture to give us a sense of pervading doom, it's quite a knack and means the viewers have to hang on in there to get to the wonderful, and dare I say it, bleakly appropriate conclusion.

Christopher Walken is Frank White and gives one of his best career performances, all scary eyes and dialogue spurting precision, he pours out grit and emotion to garner sympathy where he perhaps really shouldn't be getting it. Larry Fishburne, David Caruso, Victor Argo, Wesley Snipes, Janet Julian and Steve Buscemi fill out the cast list, with Fishburne and his manic Jimmy Jump character practically walking off with the movie. So all in all it's a visual delight and a story that is very good on the ears, with the violence perfectly harsh to flesh out the grim nature of this pot boiling crime picture.

Those in need of a pick me up should steer well clear 8/10.
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on 24 April 2009
This US release is the one to buy as it contains DVD extras and the picture quality is great. The UK special edition release had a really poor audio sound quality but here it's fine. As for the film itself it's a total classic with a brilliant Christopher Walken as Frank White just released from prison who sets out on reclaiming his position as the king by disposing of all rivals. Abel Ferrara is one of my all time favorite directors and his direction here is first class as always. It's atmospheric, highly stylish and full of energy (there's also a bit of sleaze). The film looks great and there's plenty of action too as well as a great cast. Lawrence Fishburn really shines as Walken's right hand man and David Caruso and Victor Argo are memorable also. The film isn't a chore to watch like some long winded gangster films as it's quite short and definitely should be in any film fans collection.
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on 7 October 2012
Christopher Walken and Abel Ferrara made King Of New York when both were at the peak of their careers. Ferrara immediately made another classic in Bad Lieutenant with Harvery Keitel and struck gold with an actor ready to go right to the edge. Walken doesn't quite go that far but in this film, as in "The Comfort Of Strangers" which he made at around the same time,he has a presence that no other actor could replicate.Ferrara films New York in a beautifully dark and menacing manner and that is how Walken plays Frank White, but somehow he manages to imbue him with humanity, maybe because Walken himself is a humane guy but maybe because he also knows how many of society's elites use charity as a mask for their underlying criminal perversities.
This is absolutely Walken's movie, and he looks superb in a film that is high on style and low on budget.It does lack depth and detail and could have done with being 20 minutes longer with a more filled-out script, but the pace of it is just right and the lighting and ambience of a city at night is superb.
The supporting cast is incredibly good, containing several who went on to become movie leads in their own right: Laurence Fishburne, Wesley Snipes, and David Caruso.
The story is basic and knowing Ferrara is most likely also highly un-scripted, just following a basic plot and then ad-libbing in the blanks, but with Walken it works, and with Keitel in Bad Lieutenant it works even better. Both movies are cult classics which would most likely have been dismissed as average B movies with lesser actors in the leads. For me Bad Lieutenant just shades King of New York,because the story itself has more depth to it and Keitel gives the performance of his career.
This is probably Walken's best movie along with The Dead Zone, The Deer Hunter, and Heaven's Gate, and he has done little of note since this came out in 1989, with the exception perhaps of Catch me if you Can, for which he got nominated for an oscar supporting Leo Di Caprio. Some critics went on about his cameo performances in True Romance and Pulp Fiction but he is better in King Of New York than in either of those movies. Too often he seems to accept low budget, limp scripted TV style movies just to keep himself busy, when he is good enough to be in bigger budget classy movies like The Godfather.Ferrara too has never since matched what he managed to achieve with this film and Bad Lieutenant, and i would recommend buying both.
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on 25 June 2014
Not mean at all in fact. Just big hearted and misunderstood - like all of us, really.
Halfway through I noticed that, despite all the rave notices he got for this, Christopher Walken's mannerisms and presentation in this film was basically just the same as Christopher Walken's mannerisms and presentation in all his other movies. Don't know why that should strike me as odd, but this movie particularly hinged a lot on the loaded pregnant pauses our hero had to deliver, when you could almost feel the cogs in his brainbox ticking menacingly over, and without that sort of Presence (or Absence, he could just as much be thinking about what to have for tea) there wasn't an awful lot of script or plot. I liked the guy and found him warm and cuddly and wouldn't mind being his buddy, particularly as he always carried around barrowloads of cash and got followed everywhere by a couple of sensational minders - he could trail off into a dreamy brainbox sequence all he wanted, as far as I'd be concerned.
It's an old film, so loads of blood and guts, and not a good time to be casually loitering around minding your own business. And I don't think there's anybody left at the end of it all - so the funeral guys would have been happy, if all the wives and kiddies and girlfriends of the deceased few thousand weren't.
I just think the cops were sour losers, and wearing bulletproof vests not playing the game at all.
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on 11 March 2014
It's surprising to learn that King of New York took 5 years to write because the worst thing about the movie is the script. The actors have little to play with, but at least direcor Abel Ferrera who was always hit and miss secured some great names.

The movie is headed by the great Christopher Walken who looks uneasy but gains momentum as the film goes on. Walken plays a drug lord who has just been released from prison. He decides to take out his enemies and use the drug profit to benefit New York's poor- a modern day Robin Hood, but all those dead bodies are piling up. Wesley Snipes plays part of a trio of cops hell bent on bringing Walken and his gang down. It's interesting that Snipes would go on to be the drug kingpin a year later in New Jack City. Snipes shines here. Though the stand out performance should go to Laurence Fishburne known as Larry here- who gives a menacing, evil portrayl of a thug on the edge.

At times the movie is ultra violent, but it never feels polished or completed and is too short to call epic gangster movie. It's certaintly passable and kudos to Ferrera for employing a predominatly black cast (even if the majority are the bad guys). A film stuck in 1990 with the music and hairstyles, but not a complete failure. Walken has done much better before and since.
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on 3 December 2000
Abel Ferrera's superb gangster flick deserves a better DVD treatment than this. Full screen and as soft as your VHS copy even fora tenner this is a waste of your money. Wait for a better print.
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