- Movie Rating -

Fear City (1984)

| February 15, 1985

Abel Ferrara’s Fear City is a movie with a lot of style and a serious lack of ambition.  The pieces are here that could make up a great crime thriller but, in the end, it doesn’t really add up to much.  What becomes apparent right away is that the movie has been inspired partially by the noir thrillers of the 1940s and the grimier works of Martin Scorsese.  When it was over, I wished the Scorsese had directed it.

The movie stars Tom Berenger as Matt Rossi, a former prize fighter who walked away after he killed a man in the ring, who has retired to a job as a Manhattan talent agent for exotic dancers at Mafia-owned strip joints.  When a psychotic begins carving up the girls, Rossi and his partner Nick (Jack Scalia) suspect that the killer could be a competitor trying to ruin their business.  Meanwhile, the cop on the case Al Wheeler (Billy Dee Williams) thinks that perhaps Matt and Nick are behind the crimes but can’t find a motive.  And Carmine, the local mob boss, isn’t interested in the identity of the suspect so much as he wants the guy in his territory.  All of these characters intercept into a strange web of intrigue that also includes Matt’s former lover Loretta (Melanie Griffith) who is a stripper and a club owner named Mike (Michael Gazzo) who is worried about being run out of business.

What is apparent is that, stylistically, this is not a lazy film.  Ferrara creates a really tense atmosphere here and some characters that have a little more dimension than when might expect.  The problem is that the movie doesn’t reach high enough.  All that style is crippled by the fact that the movie doesn’t seem very deep.  The killer turns out to be yet another Travis Bickle clone who has the motive but not the poetry, and the journey getting to him is frustrating to say the least.  I wanted to like Fear City but I couldn’t get over the fact that it never really reached for greatness.  There’s good stuff here, but it needed more focus, more depth, more humanity.  It’s a standard movie that could have been great.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1985) View IMDB Filed in: Drama