King of New York | Chicago Reader

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Rated R · 103 minutes
This 1990 movie hasn't aged well, perhaps because director Abel Ferrara relied too heavily on the canned irony at the heart of Nicholas St. John's script about a rising drug king who's also a philanthropist. Expressive montages of New York City make for some of the strongest moments, and the high-style action set pieces helped define a standard that's since been debased by empty emulation. But the themes about the many hypocrisies of the war on drugs are spelled out almost too efficiently; other movies by the same team prove Ferrara and St. John's subversive macho ideas tend to be more provocative when they're messier (Dangerous Game). Still, the imposing performances in this chess game between pointedly black and white criminals (Christopher Walken, Laurence Fishburne) and police detectives (Victor Argo, Wesley Snipes, David Caruso) are as impressive as ever.

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