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Fred Olen Ray
Looking at film history, one can pick any decade and easily find a film that deals with the subject teen angst, crime, or juvenile delinquency. The 80's are no exception to that, as we can see with 1984's "Alphabet City". Taking place in the real life (and at the time troubled) neighborhood of New York City, it concerns the story of a young, punk street dealer named Johnny (Vincent Spano in his younger days). Johnny lives the life, has a hot girlfriend and young daughter, as well as a sweat ride. But he begins to have second thoughts about everything when he's ordered by his mob boss, Gino (a very effective Raymond Serra) to burn down the building where his mother and little sister are living. What follows next is a run for his life as Johnny does everything to collect old debts to get himself and his family out of dodge.
Before I go on, let me be honest: The film won't win any academy awards. It is what is, a low budget teen crime drama. And yet the film is memorable, if not for its writing than for the look and feel of it. "Alphabet City" perfectly captures the time it was made in, the early eighties, be it the fashion (the bright colored "tights" girls used to wear in night clubs, Oh Yeah!) or the quasi disco/early 80's dance music that was happening at the time. One song called "Lady Luck" is especially memorable since they play it throughout much of the film. It might not be anything special, but after a while, it is pretty catchy. Another point that helps is the dedication the actors give to their roles, despite the film being as low budget as it is. Vincent Spano is fairly convincing as the drug dealer who grows a conscience, as is Michael Winslow as Lippy, Johnny's drug addicted partner in crime. In particular, Winslow makes you feel for Lippy, as he inspires feelings of hopelessness and despair with his crazy antics and street rhythms. Rounding out the cast is Kate Vernon as Angie, Johnny's girlfriend, and a very young and just starting out Jami Gertz as Johnny's sister Sophia. But above all, perhaps what makes "Alphabet City" so memorable is a genuine feeling of the price one might be required to pay when he enters the drug game (Another commenter on this site who admits to being involved in the drug trade during this time said the same thing. Luckily for him, he was able to get out of the game but not before seeing many of his friends being "retired" for good). And on that note, if you're in the mood for some 80's fun and decent teen story, check out "Alphabet City". Directed by Amos Poe.
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