Crime lord Frank White is released from jail and sets about reclaiming the New York underworld and shaping it in his own image.
King Of New York can be seen very much as the Scarface of the 1990’s. It has much of its excess, including a larger than life central character played with Walken’s usual panache, explosions of visceral action and is all set very much within the popular culture of its time; in this case the gang related culture of early hip hop. This is the film which cemented Walken’s reputation as psycho of choice for up and coming directors and Laurence Fishburne’s manic turn as a gleeful hit man almost steals the show. It’s a very influential formula – obviously making an impact on Tarantino and his contemporaries – and the whole recipe of old school hip hop and late 1980’s fashions which has been enjoying a revival of late has dated surprisingly well. In fact, despite the comparison with Scarface, it’s rather better written, directed and acted than Brian De Palma’s film.
The only thing that stopped it from reaching firm favourite status for me was the rather anti-climactic ending, but I’d still consider this as Abel Ferrara’s finest achievement.