King of New York

The King is Frank White, a New York City drug lord just out of jail and determined to reestablish his fiefdom among the Mob and the Chinese gangs who have cut into his operation. As played by a fiercely magnetic Christopher Walken, White is funny, disarming and lethal. Accompanied by two female bodyguards, he smoothly makes his rounds of chic hotel suites and grimy cocaine dens, getting off not just on sex, drugs and bucks but also on his own celebrity.

The mantle of power this scum king wears is no delusion; the film is surprisingly adept at detailing how the underworld and the political Establishment mesh. Angered at seeing White lauded on TV for his philanthropy, three cops – acted precisely and memorably by Victor Argo, Wesley Snipes and the splendid David Caruso – plot his downfall. Director Abel Ferrara (China Girl, Fear City), abetted by Nicholas St. John's strong script and Bojan Bazelli's crisp camera work, gets at the poisonous essence of White's lifestyle without denying its pull. Ferrara's blend of toughness and lyricism turns this visionary crime film into something stylish, seductive and haunting.

From The Archives Issue 589: October 18, 1990