Called in from New York, a cop is asked to help on an investigation in to the rapidly expanding drug/club scene in the early 90's. The emotionally-charged cop finds himself a 'fish out of water' in his new calm and collected surroundings and it takes a while for both parties to adjust to working together.
Danny Cannon is a young British filmmaker whose feature debut tries manfully to reinvent the London gangster picture but is only partially successful. The canny mix of elements English youth cults, drugs, guns, an American lead was obviously designed with an international audience in mind, though as the US success of The Crying Game has proved, sometimes it is a determinedly local set of concerns which has the best chance of playing globally.
John Harris (Keitel) is a ballsy New York narcotics cop invited to London to help the Met deal with the explosion of drug-related crime on the margins of the capital's club scene, the contrast between Harris' rugged individualism and a very British ethos of keeping up appearances being particularly well handled.
Where the movie comes unstuck, however, is in its identification of "Americanism" with the corruption of working class youth and the loss of older, more sentimental ideals of honourable villainy. The Young Americans may in the end be a missed opportunity, but at least it's a British movie which is neither an adaptation of Shakespeare nor a fluffy period drama, and for that we may be grateful.
In 1993 most of the English films being commissioned were period dramas, so considering this isn't one, it deserves your attention already. Although somehow you're left wondering why, if the studios were going to take a chance with a different genre, choose a bland fish-out-of-water drama featuring police and drugs to break the mould?