"I spent half my life in prison. I never got away with anything, and I never killed anybody that didn't...that didn't deserve it."
- Frank White (Christopher Walken) to Bishop (Victor Argo)
Rolling Stone - 10/18/1990
"...Ferrara's blend of toughness and lyricism turns this visionary crime film into something stylish, seductive and haunting..."
Sight and Sound - 07/01/1991
"...Christopher Walken lends the role a certain sleazy charm..."
USA Today - 10/01/1990
"...Ferrara knows how to shoot the grimmer parts of New York..."
New York Times - 09/22/1990
"...Grisly yet electrifying..."
Film Comment - 01/01/1991
"...Exhilaratingly nasty....It moves like a bat out of hell..."
Los Angeles Times - 10/26/1990
"...Abel Ferrara, director of KING OF NEW YORK is a virtuoso of grunge....Christopher Walken is the ideal actor for Ferrara because he combines an ultra-scary stolidness with balletic grace..."
Empire - 10/01/2008 4 stars out of 5 -- "[With] a giant performance from Walken, who turns silence into noise with every icy look."
Sight and Sound - 11/01/2008
"Canny casting caught Steve Buscemi, Laurence Fishburne and Wesley Snipes early in their careers..."
Total Film - 08/01/2012 4 stars out of 5 -- "Walken rules the joint, lending Frank a vampiric allure with his insinuating physique, impassive stare and halting dialogue."
Christopher Walken stars as Frank White, an ultracool crime boss, in this moody gem from director Abel Ferrara. Released from a long stint in jail, White rejoins his devoted gang, which includes the trigger-happy Jimmy Jump (Laurence Fishburne), Test Tube (Steve Buscemi), and his attractive attorney girlfriend, Jennifer (Janet Julian). Setting up headquarters in Trump Plaza, they start wiping out members of rival mobs in a bid to take back the streets and indulge in lots of cocaine and sex, but ultimately White has more noble ambitions, such as giving a fortune in drug money to charity. David Caruso, Victor Argo, and Wesley Snipes costar as a group of bitter cops who don't buy Frank's change of heart and decide to go outside the law to take him down. Poetic, sexy, funny, somber, and very violent, this critical hit cemented the rep of Ferrara and has earned a strong cult following. Bozan Bajelli serves as director of the arresting cinematography, which is full of rich shadows and gold, blue, and red hues. For fans of films such as THE GODFATHER and SCARFACE, this is essential viewing.
In Abel Ferrara's KING OF NEW YORK, drug lord Frank White, recently released from prison, ruthlessly maneuvers to take control of the entire city's drug trade. When the police declare war on the convict, White strikes back by putting a contract out on the cops.
Big City |
Theatrical Release |
Theatrical release: September 28, 1990 (N.Y.); October 26, 1990 (L.A.).
Filmed in New York City.
Actor Victor Argo, who plays Roy Bishop, appears in many of director Abel Ferrara's films, including BAD LIEUTENANT, DANGEROUS GAME, and THE FUNERAL. He has appeared in over 60 films throughout his career, including MEAN STREETS, THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, SMOKE, and GHOST DOG: THE WAY OF THE SAMURAI.
Originally rated X by the MPAA, an appeal brought the rating down to R.
Screened at the 1990 Goodwill Film Festival (where the film originally ran 118 minutes), the 1990 Telluride Film Festival, the 1990 New York Film Festival, the 1990 London Film Festival, and the 1990 Cairo International Film Festival, and at the 1991 Mystfest in Cattolica, Italy.
Estimated budget $8 million. The entire budget came from Italian, not American, sources, even though the cast and crew were American.