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3.36- KING OF NEW YORK dvd review

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DVD Review: KING OF NEW YORK Special Edition

by David Blackwell

KING OF NEW YORK is Abel Ferrara's masterpiece that some people don't get and think it is the work of a hack director. This movie is a visual force with a great central performance by Christopher Walken who expresses the character of Frank White through dialogue, silence, and facial expressions. Walken is one of the best character actors today with a wide range of roles from villains to oddballs to a scientist to an angel or Johnny Smith. Walken can do it all.

KING OF NEW YORK starts with Frank White getting out of Sing Sing after serving time for several years. Frank starts eliminating anyone who is in his way. He wants to keep a hospital from shutting down and he intends to use drug profits to keep it open, but a group of cops want to stop Frank and his gang.

Frank is a sociopath played to perfection by Christopher Walken. You see him silent one moment, happy the next, and then bursting with rage as he shoots someone. Laurence Fishburne's performance didn't really impress me in this movie, but he improved as an actor since then. David Caruso isn't bad in this movie. He gives his usual performance.

Abel knows how to contrast scenes and flash back and forth between two things happenning at the same time (but in different locations). Sometimes KING OF NEW YORK is over-the-top, but somehow it works to the movie's advantage.

VIDEO/AUDIO: The movie is in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen on disc one. The picture is sharp and clear. The colors are great and the flesh tones are right. No specs of dirt or artifacts present. The only flaw I see in the transfer is some nighttime shots look a little murky. The audio is great with the dialogue being heard clearly and the music (and sound effects) come out good. The audio is presented on disc one and two on both discs in English 5.1 Dolby or 2.0 Dolby.

The full frame version is on disc two. The video seems a little grainy compared to the 1.85:1 widescreen version on disc two.

AUDIO COMMENTARIES: There are two of them on disc one. The first one with director Abel Ferrara is just one of the better DVD commentaries I have ever heard. He tells stories about the production of the movie, how the script took five years to write and started as a script called Murder 101 that focused on the cops instead of the bad guys, and the reception of KING OF NEW YORK at the New York Film festival (people applauded it at the 10 pm screening where it was booed at the 11 am screening the next day.

The second audio commentary features Producer Mary Kane, Editor Anthony Redman, Composer Joe Delia, and Associate Producer Randy Sabusawa. This commentary give more insight into the production of the movie. Both commentaries praise the acting of Christopher Walken. Abel lets slip that they got to shoot in the Trump Plaza for free because Ivan Trump wanted to meet Christopher Walken.

EXTRAS: "A Short Film About the Long Career of Abel Ferrara" is a 47 minute feature that has interviews with teh various people who have worked with Abel. They tell stories about the movies Abel has done and how it is to be working with. It is very insightful. Some of the interview footage looks like it was shot in digital video.

The Theatrical trailer is on disc one while the TV spots are on disc two. The trailer looks good, but they could have cleaned up the beginning of the trailer. The second TV spot is a shortened version of the theatrical trailer.

Also on disc two is a documentary, "The Adventures of Schoolly D: Snowboarder", that is 42 minutes long. Interviews are shot in digital video. The documentary begins and ends with a history of gansta rap and hip hop while the middle features Schoolly D talking about his early career to how he came to be involved with doing some music for KING OF NEW YORK.

Rounding out disc two is the KING OF NEW YORK music video by Schoolly D.

MENU/ DVD ART: The DVD menus are presented in a nice and sinister orange.

The clear DVD slip sleeve is interesting with the cut out grey to feature clear letters of the movie's title. However, you take off the sleeve to reveal a very ugly cover. I wish Artisan/Lion's Gate had the superior cover that was used for the first VHS release of KING OF NEW YORK. I don't mind the orange and black cover, but I think it would have been more effectuive is they just had Christopher Walken's face on the DVD art because Mr. Fisburne's mug just looks out of place and he shouldn't have been included on the front DVD art. The worse offender is the muddled design of the back DVD cover art that could have used some color and some useful stills from the movie.

FINAL VERDICT: This is a special edition that could have been easily done on one disc instead of two discs. I would have loved to see a feature with interviews of the cast KING OF NEW YORK. The movie is one of the best movies ever made by an interesting director who likes to operate in the world of independent films with his down and dirty view of worlds that some of us might not want to look at. KING OF NEW YORK is definitely worth it for the great performance of Christopher Walken.

this review is (c)5-6-2004 David Blackwell and cannot be reprinted without permission. Send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com and look for additional content (and site updates) at http://www.livejournal.com/users/enterlinemedia