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Youth crime and drugs are rife in London. Scotland Yard call in an advisor
from the DEA because they believe a new force is in play within the
underworld. Harris arrives in London to find nothing different from the LA
he just left and begins to make links with Chris who seems to offer the only
way into the gangs.
The story may not be anything to write home about, but this film was a good introduction to the ability (if questionable script judgement) of Danny Cannon. The story makes a lot of leaps as Harris tries to shut down the American influence in the drug game. However many subplots are weak or totally incidental and just seem there to make up the time. The main story itself is a little too glossy and is a times just an excuse for Cannon's direction.
Cannon directs well here London looks good, whether it's the dark alleys or the sun setting over the cityscape. He can't really work well with character but he can do visuals pretty well.
Another reviewer has commented on the `unknown' cast however there are no more `unknowns' in this than in anything else. Keitel is good despite having the whole family subplot that he clearly doesn't know what to do with and he doesn't do as much with his exploitation of Chris as he could have but he's always watchable. Kelly is good as the young Chris but the emotion towards the end is a little beyond him. The rest of the cast is fully of unknowns is it? Thandie Newton? Viggo Mortensen? Keith Allen? A host of faces from British TV and films? All are pretty good although some have more to do than others.
Overall the plot may not be totally together but a good strong lead by Keitel and a good bit of direction by Cannon makes this feel better than it actually is.
There's a couple of stories (possibly apocryphal) about how Cannon's
career was launched, one story is that respected film Director Alan
Parker, saw a short film he made on a BBC amateur film-making programme
and, impressed with what he saw, immediately phoned the BBC so he could
get in touch with Cannon - which he apparently did, Parker then
supposedly recommended him to a prestigious film school...
The other story is that Danny Cannon's father is a top studio executive and that nepotism was the way he started.
Either way, Cannon's debut film was an interesting little movie with big aspirations - at the time British films tended to be almost always socio-political, so-called worthy films, usually about the social underclass - remember this was 1993 and just before Richard Curtis invented the Britsh Rom-Com...
What the film lacks in terms of story (Cannon was Co-Writer) it makes up for in sheer film-making skill - The Young Americans is a beautiful-looking movie.
It's a film that belies it's VERY low-budget, and looks like a much more expensive piece.
Danny Cannon displays an almost Ridley Scott like style in the care he takes with the look of the film, and the careful, unhurried pacing, he is aided in his efforts by excellent Anamorphic 2.35:1 photography from D.P. Vernon Layton - giving The Young Americans a rich, almost sumptuous look, for what, on the surface, is a gritty urban crime thriller.
A special mention should be made for Composer David Arnold and his beautiful, almost tragic Music Score - of course he went on to bigger things: Stargate, Independence Day, the Bond movies - Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day, plus Zoolander, Changing Lanes, The Stepford Wives and the upcoming Ghost Rider, and another Bond - Casino Royale.
Personally, I thought Danny Cannon's career might have amounted to something more substantial that just 3 feature films.
These films include the badly mis-judged(!) Stallone vehicle Judge Dredd and the horror sequel I Still Know What You Did Last Summer - not sure how the latter film fared at the box-office (though I suspect not good!)
I DO know that Judge Dredd was a BIG financial and critical failure - Cannon got the film right after The Young Americans, tiny budget to mega budget - could this be a case of Cannon running before he could walk?
Of course Danny Cannon has found considerable success as an Executive/Supervising Producer, occasional Writer and sometimes Director on the 3 hit CSI TV series from Jerry Bruckhiemer - this in itself is no mean feat, but I do feel Cannon's potential as a Director of Feature Films has gone largely untapped and that he could have made a more substantial career if he'd stayed in Movies.
Hear he's got a Soccer movie in the works, let's hopes that this is a return to features for an underrated and talented Director.
There's hardly a smile to be found in this dark, brooding, oppressively heavy drama which tells of an American DEA agent (Keitel) who comes to London to assist in the capture of a drug trafficker as the UK bends under the strain of a virulent drug trade. The camera spends most of the time examining the bleak, grim, and sad expressions of police, innocents, and others caught up in the drug war leaving the plot muddled and somewhat buried in its attempt to show that where drugs are involved there are no winners. A powerfully compelling drama for those who can appreciate the reality of the lose-lose nature of crime.
When THE YOUNG AMERICANS was released it was marketed as a cool , tough British thriller . But after watching it the reality is that it`s average at best and is disappointing in many ways , especially its casting , Harvey Keitel as a tough NY cop , Keith Allen as a violent London gangster , wow get ready for some on screen fireworks ! Or rather don`t because these two characters become sidelined halfway through and Chris O`Neill becomes the film`s focus . In truth THE YOUNG AMERICANS is more of a drama with some subtle political comment about the Americanisation of Britain rather than a tough action thriller as it was marketed
STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning
** Sunday Night * Monday Morning
With everyone talking about how youth crime and violence has skyrocketed almost to the same level as the States in Britain, this action thriller from over fifteen years ago now looks like a grim prediction from back then, with Harvey Keitel's hardened detective flying over to help stem the drugs/murder problem whilst pursuing a villain he was originally after in the States who he now believes has started to prowl around Europe.
The film manages a consistently gritty, raw atmosphere, fitting in tone with the story it's telling. Keitel is perfectly cast in the lead role, whilst as the villain in an early role Viggo Mortensen shows potential. Unfortunately, a melodramatic, hammy tendency in parts of the script, as well as an unconvincing turn from Keith Allen as a shady club owner, stop it achieving it's full potential. Still, it's a decent enough effort, forgettable but effective while it lasts. ***
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is an average crime neo-noir set in London. Watchable, but not
stirring or memorable. Shadowed (color) photography in much of it.
Keitel handles his role beautifully.
"The Young Americans" (1993) has some good things going for it. It has a first-rate performance from Harvey Keitel as a cool, smart, determined and experienced American cop. His character has good intuition about how to investigate. He latches on to a young man (Craig Kelly) whose father is slain in a criminal war between the old guard and a new guard that deals drugs and exotic drugs that the old guard knows nothing about. Kelly does a very good job acting, and he holds the screen. He projects the character. He eventually is wired and does some undercover work. In a subplot, he gets together with a black girl, Thandie Newton, and she does quite a good job too. She sees something in him and she is more experienced as well. Viggo Mortensen plays an American drug dealer. He's the elusive quarry of Keitel and the reason why Keitel has been given police carte blanche in London. Keitel knows how he operates to attract young men into his circle and use them to do his dirty work. Mortensen is working up to a big drug deal with Keith Allen, who handles his secondary role in a fiery way as an intimidating club owner. In the old guard is a retired chap (Terence Rigby) who nonetheless is a target of Mortensen and his young hoods. He was an effective character actor.
The film is photographed very nicely in neo-noir style. Keitel in his own way is about as ruthless and calculating as Mortensen. Parallel to Mortensen, he recruits the young Kelly, taking advantage of his desire for revenge. Keitel is separated from his wife, presumably due to his dedication to his job, but he wants to get together with her again. Somehow the events in London enable him to reach out to her again.
The big negative in this movie is the story. The subplots of Keitel and wife and Kelly and Newton are not connected to the main plot, so they appear as time fillers and slow the movie down. They are predictable too. Kelly sees a black friend stabbed (Nigel Clauzel) and then visits him in the hospital and then later he's taken away by his parents. This too doesn't connect well to the character arc of Kelly. It simply goes on too long and we do not grasp well how this connects to Kelly's subsequent actions. In another subplot, there is a dirty cop or two who get killed. This too is dropped and doesn't integrate well with the main story of Keitel's pursuit. London cops come in and out without contributing much in the way of dynamic tension or conflict. We also do not get a clear view of Allen's conflicts with some members of the old guard. The whole angle of Mortensen's drug supplying capacity is underwritten. He's supposed to be someone who travels internationally and has supply access, but this is all in the background. I think what the story needed was more interaction between Keitel and the old guard, Allen, and even Mortensen somehow. The climax was also less than satisfying, which I won't reveal. We needed a stronger story that built the characters better and revealed their conflicts. Think "On the Waterfront". This seems to have been a hasty job with not enough rewrites and development put into it.
I found myself pausing the movie and then not returning for a couple of
days. It was that UN-exciting. The film drags on forever with those "Oh
so polite" British cops and that "Is he trying to play a bad cop?"
Harvey K. All set in the Oh so boring scenery of what I presume is
supposed to be the rough district of London.
Harvey was a lot better bad cop in "Border".
The film quickly gets to the point where you don't really care who committed what crime, who killed who, who the real bad guys are, you just want it to be over so you can go in the kitchen and make more nachos.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILER ALERT*** With a number of London's top hoodlums knocked off
it's become apparent that a new element of crime is sweeping the city.
Young thugs barley out of their teens are being recruited by American
drug kingpin Carl Frazer, Viggo Morterser,to enforce his now expanding
After having US government DEA agent John Harris, Harvey Keitel, sent to help the London Police and Scotland Yard in getting to the bottom of the crime wave things go from bad to worse. The two policemen Carver & Carnegie, Geoffrey McGivern & Dave Duffy, that are to work with Harris end up getting themselves killed. It turned that both cops were in the pay of the London underworld and, together with their fellow criminals, were offed by the young hoods working for Frazer.
Looking for a hook, or inside man, to infiltrate Frazer's drug empire Harris together with his British police partner inspector Glen,Edward Foster, zero in on petty hoodlum Christain O'Nell, Craig Kelly. Chis has been going through a deep depression over the shooting of his friend Lionel Stevens, Nigel Clavzel, at the notorious Temple Nightclub run by homicidal psycho and Frazer front man Jack Doyle, Keith Allen. Lionel's grief stricken sister Rachael, Thandle Norton, who met Chris at the hospital where he brother was being treated soon fall in love with him. This makes Chris even more depressed in not keeping Rachael's brother Lionel away from Doyle, whom he was mouthing off to, who ended up shooting him.
Keeping his mouth shut about who shot his friend Lionel , so he wouldn't get killed by members of Frazer's "youth squad", Chris' slight involvement, by his being friendly with with some of Frazer's young hoodlums, with the city's illegal drug trade has his father and old time London gangster Dermot, James Duggan, very upset. Dermot starts to make threats against Frazer in that if his son Chris ever ends up working for him he'll do a job on Frazer himself! Not realizing that Frazer means business Dermot's bullet riddled body ends up floating in the River Thames.
Chris now having his best friend and father ending up victims, together with about two dozen London mobsters, of Frazer's reign of terror decides to go undercover, with a wire, to get the goods on Frazer & Co. for the London Police Department.
A very subdued looking Harvey Keitel, probably suffering of jet lag, is mostly reduced to a supporting role to who's really the star of the movie young Carig Kelly. Kelly as the misguided and very confused Chris O'Neill has his eyes opened to just how destructive the American gangster Frazer is not only to him but his fellow Londoners in bringing drugs into the city. It soon turned out that Chris going undercover with a recording device wasn't exactly the best way to get Frazer caught with his guard down.
Being as both slick and slippery as a eel Frazer didn't expose his real intentions knowing, even though he trusted Chris, the tactics that the police, at least back in the states, use to catch hoodlums like himself saying something that will put them behind bars. What struck me a bit odd about the very cautious Frazer was that he used his very base of operations, Doyle's Temple Nightclub, to have his sh*t, or drugs, delivered! This more then anything else that the police and DEA Agent Harris did, unsuccessfully, to catch him turned out to be Frazer's fatal flaw and lead to his, and his criminal youth movement, ultimate downfall.
'The Young Americans' was made in the 90s - a quite routine thriller story about an American cop sent to London to follow a drug baron. The theme of cops in foreign territory was largely dealt with before and after this movie, and allowed for some good films to be made. Detective stories, and stories about detectives are a good ground to present culture clash in the context of tense situations. Not here, where the only difference is in the hard spoken accents of the characters, and no real tension or relationship develops around the main character or with respect to his Brit counterparts. Some good acting from Harvey Keitel and the two young actors trying to describe a pure relationship in the trash of the underground world cannot save the day in this rather boring movie, where nothing special happens, not more than in an average BBC police drama.
Well, it wasn't that bad of a film. Having collected a dozen or so London crime dramas I must admit while this one had some flaws (low budget)it quite well fits into the genre of the Classic British Crime Drama. The violence and paranoia of the gang leaders, including the American (when he hurts the young women at the party) captures the character of these types (as far as the scene in concerned). I thought the acting was good, the camera work was also interesting and the film kept moving forward to the climax which was still unknown 5 minutes before it took place. The scene with the wedding of Chris's father, where he is drunk and is overheard by the "goon" who immediately "rats" him out was well done. The scenes of the seedier sides of London was also well photographed, the smoke, grim, and age. All in all it was worth watching if you are not expecting something "great" like "Get Carter" or "Snatch".
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