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It Don't Pay to Be an Honest Citizen (1985)

An ironic New York City thriller involving a mafioso and a restless, witty lawyer.


Jacob Burckhardt


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Credited cast:
William S. Burroughs ... Mafioso
Reed Bye Reed Bye ... Warren
Vincent D'Onofrio ... Bennie
Allen Ginsberg ... Lawyer
William Rice William Rice


An ironic New York City thriller involving a mafioso and a restless, witty lawyer.

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Release Date:

February 1985 (West Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

Ehrlich lohnt sich nicht See more »

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User Reviews

2.5 Out of 10: 1 point each for the beat poets, .5 for D'Onofrio
21 October 2005 | by wolson-2See all my reviews

This is a story about the misadventures of Warren (Reed Bye) a Brooklyn filmmaker who has his documentary film about pigeon racing in Brooklyn stolen from him (along with cash he's just withdrawn from an ATM at 3 am) by two Brooklyn teenage hoods Bennie (Vincent D'Onofrio) and Angela. The rest of 'Honest Citizen' shows Warren flailing around and going through the motions (you can't really call what Reed Bye does 'acting') of trying to recover his documentary (which we never see more than a few seconds of and that's in the opening credits) and encountering other criminals and shady types such as Sidney the Lawyer (Allen Ginsburg) and Paul the neighborhood mafia don (William s. Burroughs).

Cutting to the chase here, what little there is shown of beat poets Ginsburg and Burroughs is good (watch for some great extemporaneous verse from Sidney the Lawyer), D'Onofrio shows some tiny promise of his future acting abilities in a scene that takes place in a restaurant booth, and the rest is a mess. Hugh Levick's score is abysmal, grating and detracts from the film, Reed Bye and Mary Tepper (who plays Warren's girlfriend Anita) are painfully wooden, the screenplay by Jacob Burckhardt, Reed Bye & Rochelle Kraut is uninteresting, and careful attention to the credits will show that most of the cast members also have technical credits on 'Citizen' (and they really shouldn't gloat about either contribution). 'Citizen Kane', this ain't.

It is interesting to see how grungy Brooklyn was in the 1980s. I wonder how NYC mayors Giuilani and Bloomberg would feel if prospective NYC tourists were shown this film.

Worth watching only by die-hard fans of Ginsburg, Burroughs, and completionist fans of D'Onofrio (and D'Onofrio fans won't have much to cheer about).

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