Title: King of New York (1990)
Director: Abel Ferrara
Stars: Christopher Walken, Laurence Fishburne, David Caruso, Wesley Snipes and Victor Argo
Frank (Walken) has just been released from prison. While in the pen his associates, led by Jimmy Jump (Fishburne), have been continuing his criminal enterprise, albeit at a diminished level. Upon his release Frank sets about once again becoming the ‘King of New York’. Standing in his way are the detectives who put him away, who are led by the veteran, Roy Bishop (Argo). His team includes the abrasive and cocky Dennis Gilley (Caruso) and Thomas Flanigan (Snipes). Now that Frank has re-embraced the gangster lifestyle, they intend to put him away for good. Bishop counsels restraint, but Gilley acts against orders, which leads to dire consequences. With the noose tightening around Frank’s neck, he starts to get desperate.
Despite having won an Oscar for The Deer Hunter in 1979 and being a very well known actor following that role, Walken never rose above the level of a supporting actor. He did have a lead role in The Dead Zone (1983), but that was unusual for him. In King of New York he is given ample opportunity to prove his lead actor chops, and he duly delivers. This is one of his greatest performances and his acting drips with confidence and style. He can also display considerable menace and toughness, despite his slender frame. He even manages to fit in a spot of dancing, so varied is his part.
The supporting cast is also superb. David Caruso is memorable as the hyperactive, sneering and cocky young detective, who doesn’t know the meaning of restraint. He is the polar opposite of his famous role on C.S.I. Miami, but is just as good. Laurence Fishburne gives a richly charismatic performance as Frank’s number two. His portrayal was an indication of the talent he would become in the years that followed. There is also quality work from Wesley Snipes and Victor Argo. Other cast members include Giancarlo Esposito, Steve Buscemi and Theresa Randle.
The film was directed by Abel Ferrara, who made his name with the cult horror film, The Driller Killer (1979). He is most famous for directing the original Bad Lieutenant movie from 1992, that starred Harvey Keitel in his memorable role.
King of New York is very much Christopher Walken’s film. Anyone who calls themselves a huge fan of his and hasn’t seen this film is living a lie. His is one of the greatest performances ever in a gangster film which, bolstered by a cracking supporting cast, makes this a film not be missed.