City of Industry (1997) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

There is a pretty solid market out there for ultrahip, ultraviolent noir films about psychotic gangsters who rip each other off and do nasty things to each other in dark places with saxophone solos in the solemn moments, and heavy metal music in the background for the action scenes.
This particular one sets up the confrontation mano-a-mano. Four guys commit a jewel robbery together, one of them betrays the others, but fails to kill all three of them. The betrayer and the betrayed hunt each other down for the rest of the movie. We are to sympathize with the betrayed (Keitel), who lost his brother in the process, and who is alone against all the forces the betrayer can muster. Since the betrayer has the money, he can afford to hire plenty of muscle to help him hit Keitel, while ol' Harve is pretty much on his own.


Lucy Liu plays a stripper and is seen topless during her act

one other stripper is seen naked in pretty good focus, several are seen out of focus in the background

the girlfriend of the black gang leader appears topless

So the betrayer hires a black gang to help him get get inside an Asian gang that he needs for two things (1) fence the jewels (2) get rid of Keitel. These guys turn out to be incompetent at both:

(1) at one point, the betrayer (let me call him Skip) is sitting and waiting for the fence to get him his money. Keitel gets into the fence's office and says "I want the money you're holding for Skip". Then we see the Asian fence calling Skip to say Keitel has the money. Skip (or the screenwriter) is too dumb to ask the proper follow-up question - "hey, wait a minute - the money doesn't exist - I'm WAITING for it, remember? If you were able to give some money physically to Keitel, why weren't you able to give it to me?" Oops! But he doesn't say that ... instead he finds out where Harve is and hires the same Asian guy to make a hit on the room. Yup, he just hired the same guy who was able to give Keitel the money, but not him. I guess he proved to be trustworthy.

(2) At one point, upon instructions from their leader to fix the Keitel situation permanently, the Asian guys do get Keitel, work him over and leave him for dead. Note that I said "FOR dead". These are apparently not the kind of Asian guys who score 1600 on their SAT's, because they can't even figure out the meaning of the word "permanent". So it turns out to be the old James Bond thing where they leave him to die, and he manages to get himself back into the game.

You can see that the script isn't very tight. The direction is even looser. Some examples:

  • In a fight scene with the Asian fence, Keitel drops his keys. The director breaks away from the fight action to offer a close up of the keys that have fallen from Keitel's pocket.
  • When Keitel gets to his fleabag hotel, the director zooms in for no apparent reason on a propane tank, filling the entire screen with this image. Gee, have you figured out what might blow up later in the movie?
  • There are the dreaded day-night-day continuity errors, and I read about (but missed) at least one other continuity error where a bottle disappears from a table, then reappears.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1. The links say it is letterboxed, but it is not.

  • no important features

Y'know, the movie had some potential, but the pacing is so-o-o-o slow and the detail work is so sloppy that even Keitel's realistic performance couldn't really solidify it. Critics hated it for many reasons. Critics tend to focus on the script and direction errors that any film student would have avoided, but the general population doesn't always notice or care about these things, and apparently does include a fairly enthusiastic audience for this movie. The average score at IMDb is a respectable 6.2. (None of the major critics gave it more than two stars). I guess genre buffs focused in on (1) the Keitel performance, and (2) the strong musical score, which gave the film some credibility and atmosphere, respectively.

I couldn't rate it below the "C" range. I differ a bit from the critics in the sense that the film obviously plays well with a lot of genre buffs. The continuity errors and script holes are distracting, but the film still has a certain murky power to it. I don't think you can say it's a good movie, but I don't think you can deny its genre appeal. If you don't like ultraviolent crime-betrayal-revenge films, however, you will hate it because it has none of the positives that might save it for you, while possessing all of the elements that you hate.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: one and a half stars. Ebert 1.5/4, Berardinelli 2/4, Maltin 1.5/4.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.2, better than you'd expect from the savage critical reviews.
  • With their dollars ... it bombed. Took in about a million.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C-.

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