- Movie Rating -

Alphabet City (1984)

| May 4, 1984

Alphabet City is one of those tiresome overwrought melodramas about Life in the Streets that you just know was made by people who have seen a lot of movies.  In the course of this pictures, we get a little of Rebel Without a Cause, The Wild One, West Side Story, The Long Good Friday, The Lords of Flatbush, Blackboard Jungle, Rocky, Mean Streets and probably Apocalypse Now.  It’s a collection of pieces of films about the criminal lifestyle, of gangsters, of pushing all manner of gangster movie standards without ever developing a voice of its own.

The hero is named Johnny.  We know this because everyone in his immediate orbit blares his name over and over and over and over.  He’s a collector for the mob (Rocky).  He torches buildings (Mean Streets).  He is a loner (Rebel Without a Cause).  He makes sure to keep his fellow gangsters in line (The Long Good Friday).  He’s a drug dealer but he knows that you don’t get high on your own supply (Scarface).  And Johnny’s entire world looks and feels like a production design (West Side Story).  We never feel like we are looking at the real streets of Alphabet City, nor at real human beings, nor at real situations.  It is all packaged and painted and prepared more or less like someone’s urban daydream.

That’s really too bad because Vincent Spano, who plays Johnny, is really pretty good.  We could believe that he comes from the streets.  He has a swagger and an attitude and a defensiveness that could fit into a film by Martin Scorsese or any film with better writing.  He has an intensity in his eyes that I find compelling.  But he’s lost in this movie, or rather in this production.  This is such a phony exercise that is propped up and glued together.  It’s the kind of movie that feels weird without musical numbers.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1984) View IMDB Filed in: Drama