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King of New York

King of New York
File:King of new york ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Abel Ferrara
Produced by Augusto Caminito
Mary Kane
Written by Nicholas St. John
Starring Christopher Walken
Laurence Fishburne
David Caruso
Wesley Snipes
Music by Joe Delia
Cinematography Bojan Bazelli
Edited by Anthony Redman
Distributed by Seven Arts Pictures (through New Line Cinema)
Release dates
September 22, 1990 (limited)
Running time
106 minutes
Country Italy
United States[1]
Language English
Box office $2,554,476

King of New York is a 1990 crime thriller film, starring Christopher Walken, Laurence Fishburne, David Caruso, Wesley Snipes, Victor Argo, Giancarlo Esposito, and Steve Buscemi. It was directed by independent filmmaker Abel Ferrara and written by Nicholas St. John.


Frank White, a drug lord, is riding into New York in a limousine after being released from Sing Sing. Emilio El Zapa, a Colombian drug dealer, is shot to death, and the killers leave a newspaper headline announcing Frank's release. El Zapa's partner, King Tito, is in a hotel room with Jimmy Jump and Test Tube, who are negotiating the purchase of cocaine. Jimmy and Test Tube shoot Tito and his bodyguards and steal the cocaine.

In a suite at the Plaza Hotel, Frank is greeted by Jimmy, Test Tube, and other members of his gang, who welcome him home. Frank leaves to meet two of his lawyers, Joey Dalesio and Jennifer, for dinner. Frank expresses his desire to be mayor and asks Dalesio to set up a meeting with Mafia boss Arty Clay. He and Jennifer ride on the subway. Confronted by muggers, Frank first brandishes his gun, then gives them a wad of money, telling them to ask for him at the Plaza if they want work.

Dalesio goes to Little Italy to set up a meeting with Clay, but the mafia don urinates on Dalesio's shoes and tells him it is a message for his boss. On hearing this, Frank, Jump and other members of the gang go to Clay's social club, where Frank demands a percentage of all Clay's profits. When Clay insults him, Frank shoots the mafioso. As he leaves, Frank tells Clay's men that they can all find employment at the Plaza.

The next night, Frank is confronted by Detectives Bishop, Gilley, and Flanigan of the NYPD narcotics squad. They drive him to an empty lot where they show him the body of El Zapa in the trunk. When Frank refuses to confess, Gilley and Flanigan beat him and leave him in the lot.

Frank sends Dalesio to Chinatown to make contact with Triad leader Larry Wong, who has $15 million worth of heroin. Larry demands $3 million up front and another $500,000 after the drugs are sold. Frank counters that the two should team up, then split the profits evenly. Larry turns him down and demands that Frank decide immediately whether he wants to buy the drugs. Frank declines.

Jimmy Jump and several of Frank's lieutenants are arrested by Gilley and Flanigan, who reveal that one of Tito's bodyguards is alive and willing to testify. When Frank learns of his men's arrest, he orders his lawyers to arrange their release. They head to Chinatown, where they kill Larry and his gang, taking the heroin.

Bishop, Gilley, Flanigan and other officers are at a bar, watching Frank make a large donation to a hospital on television. Gilley, visibly angered that Frank keeps evading arrest ("Ten minutes later, he's back on the streets!"), announces his intention to go outside the law in order to "get rid of Frank," suggesting that it be made to look like a rival gang was responsible. When Bishop objects, Gilley vehemently makes it clear that he will follow through with his intent. Flanigan and other officers follow Gilley out the bar, leaving Bishop behind. Bishop later approaches one of Frank's attorneys, warning him to bring Frank in before it's too late.

Police officers bribe Dalesio into leading them to a nightclub where Frank and his men are partying. After one officer infiltrates the nightclub as Dalesio's drug dealer contact, Gilley, Flanigan and other officers pose as a rival gang, burst in and begin shooting, slaying several members of Frank's gang. Fleeing over the Queensboro Bridge, Frank and Jump trade shots with the police, killing all but Gilley and Flanigan. After evading their pursuers, the two men split up. Jump shoots Flanigan in the chest, puncturing his vest. Gilley kills Jump with a shot to the head. A few days later at Flanigan's funeral, Frank kills Gilley.

After his men kill Dalesio, Frank goes to Bishop's apartment, telling him that he has placed a $250,000 bounty on every detective involved in the case. Holding Bishop at gunpoint, Frank explains that he killed Tito, Larry, Arty Clay, and Zapa because he disapproved of their involvement in human trafficking and child prostitution. Frank forces Bishop to handcuff himself to a chair.

As Frank heads to the subway, Bishop uses a hidden gun to free himself. Bishop corners Frank in a subway car. Frank shoots Bishop, but the policeman is able to fire a shot before dying. In a taxi in Times Square, it's revealed that Frank has been hit. As police officers surround the car, Frank closes his eyes, goes limp and drops his gun, implying that he has died from his injuries.



During the film's premiere at the New York Film Festival, many members of the audience including Ferrara's wife walked out of the theater. At the question-and-answer session that Ferrara held after the screening, the first question asked was, "This film is an abomination. Why aren't you giving the proceeds to some drug rehab program?" At a second showing of the film the next day, Larry Fishburne and Nicholas St. John were booed off the stage.[2]

Subsequent critical reaction has been positive.[3] The film holds a 71% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 23 reviews.[4]


  1. ^ "King of New York". British Film Institute. London. Retrieved December 19, 2012. 
  2. ^ "King of New York". Total Film. 30 September 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2013. 
  3. ^ Mark Caro (1990-12-11). "Christopher Walken Makes An Elusive `King` In A Gritty Vision Of New York". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  4. ^ "King of New York". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 

External links