Upon his release from prison, Frank White (Walken) sets about rebuilding his drug trafficking empire by wiping out his competition with expert ferocity. But seeing what his neighbourhood has become, he decides to pour the spoils into a new hospital for the ravaged borough. Meanwhile, the cops, frustrated by Frank's slippery avoidance of the legal system, decide to sidestep police procedure themselves.
Driller Killer director Abel Ferrara has made a scarcely less controversial, troubling film in this remorselessly sordid, vicious portrait of a drugs tzar and the mean streets of his domain. Walken, undeniably, provides a riveting protagonist in his cool, cunning dude Frank White, who is introduced on his release from prison and methodically rebuilds his empire of hustling dealers, corrupt connections and spaced-out courtesans.
Ferrara's treatment is lavishly ultra hip and dark. But - yikes - it's ugly stuff, with Irish cops, Italian hoods, Asian, Hispanic and Black drug dealers all vying for honours in the most gross, grotesque and depraved categories, and its disturbing disassociation from any moral point of view. It's all very well to propose that "this is what it's really like", but even if it were, does this really inform, or galvanise us?
This also boasts a number of preposterous favourite contemporary cliches, like the actress who doesn't look old enough to vote - another graduate of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue School of Dramatic Art? - playing the Hot Shot Lawyer in the Little Black Suit and, naturally, not much else, so that when they emerge triumphant from the courthouse she and Walken can set about each other without the impedence of lingerie.
Those who found, say, Internal Affairs, a "stylish" affair will be able to say the same of this, only it's more so. The more squeamish will prefer to take Manhattan Woody Allen style.