Thursday, February 27, 2014

King of New York. C+

Things move really well in King of New York, and the performances are all there, and Abel Ferrara's direction is typically unobtrusively stylish, but there's a big problem of tonal balance that keeps it from being fully successful. The tonal issues are a pretty common ones, in that the script contains lots of pulpy elements and lots of serious elements and can't quite put them together in the right way. It's not that it can't decide; I think Ferrara and screenwriter Nicholas St. John are completely set on this being a very, very bloody movie, but the problem is that they seem to be using the carnage as an end, not a means. It's the kind of movie that never restrains from violence when a character has a choice to use it. In some films, this isn't a problem. It's precisely the reason something like Machete is such fun. The problem with King of New York is that it's also trying for a great deal of complexity in its protagonist, a ruthless gangster played by Christopher Walken. Essentially it's asking questions about the connection of power and violence, and whether there is any justification in the  link between crime and acts of goodwill (Walken's character is trying to establish a hospital for the poor amidst his corrupt wheeling and dealings). But these questions can't withstand the pressure of Ferrara's relentless attempt to be gangster for the sake of gangster. The movie feels off because it simply is. There are good parts to it, but as a whole it's pretty poorly thought out (final note: you might ask why I said The Counselor is fascinating for the very reason Ferarra's film does not work: it's because McCarthy's script had the guts to go to extremes on both levels, which made for a greater, but much more interesting mess)

No comments: