DVD Review HTF REVIEW: King of New York: Special Edition

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Elliott, Mar 22, 2004.

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  1. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    [​IMG]


    King of New York: Special Edition


    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]/[​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]




    Studio: Lions Gate/Artisan
    Year: 1987
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 104 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)/Open Matte (1.33:1)
    Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DD Surround
    Subtitles: English, Spanish
    Retail Price: $19.95





    Drug lord Frank White (Christopher Walken) is being released from prison and he immediately heads back to the street to pick up where he left off. Before he even gets into his car he’s ordered that two rival drug dealers be taken care of. Back at his lavished hotel we get to meet Franks posse, which is mostly young black men who he picked up off the streets to work for him. Just looking at the place there’s no question Frank is loaded with money but he’s certainly not ready for retirement.

    For some reason while in prison Frank got rehabilitated but that doesn’t mean he can’t kill or butcher those he wants. Instead, he sees his rival gangs as the bad people and he views himself as some sort of Robin Hood. Frank plans to start killing off all his rivals so that he can make all the money and help save a hospital, which is about to be closed down. However, the police (Victor Argo, David Caruso, Wesley Snipes) don’t care about his wannabe good guy image and want to put on end to him. The court systems hold Frank’s rights higher than the cops so they decide to handle things in a new way.

    Director Abel Ferrara is one of the strangest acts in the business and I’m sure that has a lot to do with his cult appeal. I’ve seen the majority of his films and I must say that while I think he does a brilliant job at showing off style, he also lacks any sort of creditability when it comes to telling a story. Ferrara drives off controversy and to me, it’s always seemed that he is more interested in starting trouble than actually delivering a good film. King of New York is a typical gangster film but the controversy surrounding the film, which includes originally getting an X-rating, is what makes it so unique and in the end highly entertaining.

    The first hour of the film is pretty much standard gangster talk as the king gets out of prison and heads back to his old turf to take things over. For some reason the screenplay gives us the idea of Frank being some sort of Robin Hood, yet the screenplay never really explains this and it pretty much doesn’t take a big point in the film. This here is rather silly and the scenes dealing with the charity are pretty much out of place and should have been left out all together. This first hour also lacks any clear story because we certainly don’t get to know Frank nor do we get to know the cops who are trying to take him down. We see the good guys playing the bad guys and the bad guys killing other bad guys. Nothing too original here.

    However, the second half of the film is where the drama comes into play making this film pretty much unforgettable. The director goes to great length showing off the violence on display here and the atmosphere created here is rather sickening and downright shocking in some scenes. There’s a brilliant scene where a cop is on the ground wounded and his partner must try to save his life. I won’t give anything away but the dialogue spoken by the cop goes to show how much love these men have in their jobs. This is preceded by an incredibly violent shootout as a drug deal gets broken up. Once again Ferrara crosses the line in the violence and it comes rather hard to view the film because the director has painted such an ugly, depressing and vicious picture of the surroundings.

    The second half of this movie is without a doubt the best moments on Ferrara’s career and that’s saying quite a lot considering the trouble he’s gotten himself into over the years. The drama is very intense and for once we actually see what these guys are made of. The director uses a blueish tint throughout these scenes, which just adds a bit of dread to the entire thing and the final payoff is very fitting without there being any heroic tributes or flashy messages. I know many Ferrara fans say the non-fans simply don’t understand the man but I think it’s the director who just wants to show off ugliness and spit in the viewers face. In this film, that spit certainly leaves a mark and Ferrara walks away with something rather stunning.

    Christopher Walken, God bless him, is without a doubt one of the better character actors out there. He’s mostly known for playing a psycho but who cares? Walken delivers a very good, silent performance here. He isn’t given much to say throughout the film but in every scene we know exactly what’s he’s thinking thanks to those wonderful eyes as well as his body movement, which tells more than fifty lines of dialogue could. The supporting cast is also very good and includes Laurence Fishburn, Wesley Snipes and David Caruso. Victor Argo pretty much steals every scene he’s in bringing an ugly side to the cops.

    King of New York could have been one of the greatest gangster films ever made but the screenplay pretty much does nothing throughout the film and there are way too many questions that go unanswered. Ferrara’s main greatness is his style and the ugly atmosphere he creates and for the most part that carries the film along. There’s no question that the film does what it sets out to do and that’s shock people and outrage some. However, I really wish the director had gotten a better screenplay to mix in with the style because while I feel this film is very good, I can’t help but be a bit disappointed that it isn’t better.


    VIDEO---The movie is shown widescreen (1.85:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. The picture quality is certainly miles ahead of the previous disc, which was non-anamorphic. The greatest part of the transfer comes towards the end of the film when Ferrara is using the blue lights. This low tint blue looks incredible here without any noticeable edge enhancement or speckles. The entire print is pretty much free of any sorts of speckles, although there are a couple dirty scenes in the darker moments. Fleshtones look very natural and the black level looks just as good. An open matte version of the film is included on disc 2.

    AUDIO---Here we get a new Dolby Digital 5.1 track as well as the original Surround mix. The Surround mix appears to be the same as the previous DVD, which doesn’t sound too bad but I’m sure most of you will want to go with the 5.1, which sounds very good. The center speaker is mainly used for the dialogue, which sounds very crisp and clear throughout. The Surrounds are perfectly used for all the gunplay and the biggest highlight is the rap music, which sounds terrific and this is coming from someone who hates rap music.

    EXTRAS---Disc one starts off with two audio commentaries. The first is with director Abel Ferrara and the second features producer Mary Kane, editor Anthony Redman, composer Joe Delia and associate producer Rand Sabusawa. Within the first minute of Ferrara’s commentary he makes it known that he’s only doing this because he got paid $5,000 cash and then he goes into insulting Stanley Kubrick while saying the “F” word every five seconds. In fact, I think there’s more cussing in this commentary than there was in the film but hey, that’s what makes this so interesting. Ferrara gives a lot of detail about the making of the film and he’s also willing to bash anyone who doesn’t like him. This is a wonderful track, although it’s not as legendary as his commentary on The Driller Killer where he cussed and stormed out of the recording when he learned he was viewing a cut version of the film. The second track is a bit more “professional” but it’s certainly not as entertaining. Again we get more information about the making of the film but after the Ferrara track, this one here comes off rather boring and bland. Also included is a theatrical trailer, which is in pretty poor shape. Finally we get a 45-minute documentary called A Short Film About the Long Career of Abel Ferrara, which fans of the director will love. The documentary has friends of the director talking about the man himself and going through each of his films, discussing the production among other things. There are some funny stories told about Madonna from Dangerous Game as well.

    Disc 2 features the throw away extras. We start off with a television spot and a music video by Schooly D, which are from the previous release. Up next is a 45-minute documentary about Schooly D, which I found rather boring but perhaps fans will enjoy this. That’s all for the extras and once again it appears Artisan just uses the “2-disc SE” as a selling point because it seems the TV spot and music video could have fit on disc 1 and the inclusion of this documentary seems pointless.

    OVERALL---A very good film but I can’t help but feel it should have been better and would have been had it featured a better screenplay. The violence and drama are non-stop in the second half and Walken delivers another wonderful performance. The Lions Gate/Artisan DVD is certainly worth the upgrade due to the new transfer as well as the 5.1 mix. The commentary by the director is also worth double the retail price so I’m sure fans will be very happy with the release.


    Release Date: April 20, 2004
     
  2. Anthony Neilson

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    Thanks for that, Michael ![​IMG]

    Personally, I think Ferrara's ony really good film is BAD LIEUTENANT. Is there much about that film in the doc ?

    BTW - Ferrara is quite a character. I went to see him being interviewed at the London Film Festival. First off, he shouted at his own film whilst it was screening. Then he disappeared in mid-interview and someone had to go and look for him. He was found wandering around Leicester Square eating burgers.
     
  3. LaMarcus

    LaMarcus Screenwriter

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    I haven't seen this movie in years. It's a "hood" classic. Many references to this movie in the hip-hop culture, mainly from P-Diddy, Notorious Big, and Jay-Z.

    I look forward to seeing this now just to see if I like it as much as I did when I was young. It will be neat to see Larry Fishburn playing one of his ghetto characters from back in the day, back before he became Laurence Fishburn.

    It was a trip to see Wesley Snipes playing the cop roll in this movie, because he just finished playing a drug lord in New Jack City. So it was kinda disappointing to see him not on the bad guys side. It's a ghetto thing I guess.[​IMG]
     
  4. JonZ

    JonZ Lead Actor

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    "Hey,wheres the chicken at?"[​IMG]

    I have to get this for a friend who loves this movie.
     
  5. LaMarcus

    LaMarcus Screenwriter

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    [​IMG] I was trying to remember that line. That's some funny $hit.

    "Yo, where da chicken at? Where da chicken at money?"
     
  6. Dave_P.

    Dave_P. Supporting Actor

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    The scene where he offers the subway muggers work is classic. Looking forward to replacing my old DVD.
     
  7. Robert Anthony

    Robert Anthony Producer

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    "I DON'T LEAVE NO WITNESSES!!"

    "What? What the fuck is that?"
    "'nem but BULLETHOLES, PUTA!!"
    (kicks in door)
    "ROOM SERVICE MOTHERFUCKERS!"

    I think I'll upgrade just for the commentary. Abel Ferrara is a nut.
     
  8. Kenneth English

    Kenneth English Second Unit

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    I'm looking forward to upgrading for the improved picture but otherwise this "Special Edition" sounds pretty weak.
     
  9. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    In the commentary Ferrara goes off on this guy. He starts off by calling him a "600 lbs. lunatic" and that's pretty much the nicest thing he says.
     
  10. Andrew Bunk

    Andrew Bunk Screenwriter

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    I'm glad to hear it's anamorphic. DVDEmpire doesn't say it is, and the scan of the back cover doesn't seem to have any confirmation that it's 16:9 either. But I'll take your word for it Michael!
     
  11. Robert Anthony

    Robert Anthony Producer

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    BWAAAAHAHA!

    That's funny. I'm not sure I agree (Biggie seemed like a real down to earth guy--when he wasn't being pimped to death by Puffy Combs) but I can imagine the endless frustration of Ferrara as Biggie spends about 10 straight songs calling himself "The Black Frank White"
     

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