Frank White (Walken), a middle-aged drug lord, is released from prison to find that the streets of New York are tougher and less forgiving than they were when he went in. Still, his gang remains loyal, and his enemies--police and thieves alike--are as hostile as ever. Frank, though, has
changed, and decides to make a positive mark on society. Countless hurdles, however, stand in the way of his civic-minded ambitions, which revolve around raising the money needed to keep a public hospital open in a poverty-stricken neighborhood. For starters, he has made a bad name for himself in
virtually every ethnic enclave in the city. Nevertheless, White decides to team with Lance Wong (Chin), a young Chinatown dealer who has a huge shipment of drugs to move. Wong's lack of altruism ("If I wanted socialized medicine, I'd have stayed in the Peking province") is a problem, as is the
hostility of the Mafia, which is horrified by White's interracial operation. Further complicating White's efforts are some frustrated Brooklyn cops willing to use any means necessary to put an end to White's plans. Hot-headed Dennis Gilley (Caruso), in particular, persuades his fellow officers
that the system favors the criminal, and that if anything is to be done about White, it won't be done by the book. Doomed from the start, White's plan precipitates a wave of violence.
Ferrara and St. John's vision of New York is jittery, complex, and defined by juxtapositions of wealth and poverty, legal and illegal commerce, politics and crime, business and recreation that are so extreme as to verge on the ludicrous. Their New York is the biggest, glossiest, most high-tech
banana republic conceivable, a jungle of steel and concrete animated by atavistic rhythms and primitive, clannish conceptions of loyalty. Ferrara's great gift as a director is his ferocious sense of place: New York's boroughs, ethnic neighborhoods, subways, hotels, landmarks, bars and fast-food
joints are all convincingly rendered here.
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- Released: 1990
- Rating: R
- Review: Frank White (Walken), a middle-aged drug lord, is released from prison to find that the streets of New York are tougher and less forgiving than they were when he went in. Still, his gang remains loyal, and his enemies--police and thieves alike--are as host… (more)