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King of New York (1990)

1:23 | Trailer
A drug kingpin is released from prison and seeks to take total control of the criminal underworld in order to give back to the community.


Abel Ferrara
4,056 ( 65)
1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »


Cast overview, first billed only:
Christopher Walken ... Frank White
David Caruso ... Dennis Gilley
Laurence Fishburne ... Jimmy Jump (as Larry Fishburne)
Victor Argo ... Roy Bishop
Wesley Snipes ... Thomas Flanigan
Janet Julian ... Jennifer
Joey Chin Joey Chin ... Larry Wong
Giancarlo Esposito ... Lance
Paul Calderon ... Joey Dalesio
Steve Buscemi ... Test Tube
Theresa Randle ... Raye
Leonard L. Thomas ... Blood (as Leonard Lee Thomas)
Roger Guenveur Smith ... Tanner (as Roger Smith)
Carrie Nygren Carrie Nygren ... Melanie
Ernest Abuba Ernest Abuba ... King Tito
Learn more

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After completing a lengthy prison sentence, one-time drug kingpin Frank White returns to New York intent on reestablishing his empire and making things as they were before he left. Others of course have taken over the business during his absence but that clearly isn't going to stop White. While he is gunning down the opposition, he decides he's going to give away the money he'll make to modernize the hospital in his old neighborhood. Drug dealers aren't the only thing he has to worry about however: a group of rogue cops decide they are going to take him down. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The cops tried to stop him their way...Now they'll have to do it HIS way. See more »


Crime | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Italian political magnate Silvio Berlusconi, the richest man in Italy, financed the film through NY-based producer Jay Julien and Italian intermediaries. See more »


After the Flanagan character has expired, the actor's exhaled breath is still visible because of the cold conditions in which the scene was shot. See more »


Frank White: From now on, nothing goes down unless I'm involved. No blackjack no dope deals, no nothing. A nickel bag gets sold in the park, I want in. You guys got fat while everybody starved on the street. Now it's my turn.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Orignally rated "X", edited and changed for R rating on appeal. See more »


Referenced in The Funeral (1996) See more »


Piece of the Rock
Words & Music / Joe Delia (as Delia) - Nicholas St. John (as St. John) - Abel Ferrara (as Ferrara)
Slymoon Pub. Co. BMI
(c) 1989
See more »

User Reviews

Ferrara's finest work
9 September 2012 | by tomgillespie2002See all my reviews

Crime lord Frank White (Christopher Walken) is released from prison, and on his long drive back to New York City, witnesses the filth his city has descended into since his incarceration. His old friend Jimmy Jump (Laurence Fishburne) has just wiped out a Colombian drug operation and welcomes Frank back with a suitcase full of money and cocaine. Eager to win his city back, and also help fund the saving of an inner city hospital through his drug operation, he sets the wheels to his crowning in motion. But cops Roy Bishop (Victor Argo), Gilley (David Caruso) and Flanigan (Wesley Snipes) are on his case, but after struggling to bring Frank in under regulations, resort to more illegal methods of getting him off the streets.

King of New York was booed upon its initial screenings, with mass walk- outs and cult director Abel Ferrara being bombarded with uncomfortable questions. Audiences were apparently appalled by the films seemingly glamorous depiction of man who was essentially a homicidal maniac, encouraging violence and sleaze wherever he went. The film is certainly guilty of that, but the character of Frank is a little different to the likes of Tony Montana or Henry Hill. He seems to style himself as a champion of the lower-classes, using his influence and vast wealth to push a councilman to put forth the money to save a hospital in a poverty-stricken area, and then fund it himself when that fails. He and his girlfriend Jennifer (Janet Julian) are robbed on the subway by inner-city youths. Frank shown them his gun, and they back off, but Frank throws them a wad of money and tells them there is work for them if they want it. A crime-lord he may be, but is he any worse than the fat politicians that soak up the city's money, or the bent cops that are on his back?

In Walken's hands, White is a charismatic, unconventional crime boss, and is in turns charming, strange, and deranged. It's a fabulous performance, but for me it was Laurence (here still credited as Larry) Fishburne that steals the show, as the swaggering, loud-mouthed gun-man Jimmy ("yo, where the chicken at?" he says after killing a cop), a man of such ridiculous posturing that he almost becomes a cartoon character. And this is one of the main reasons I loved this film. It is, at times, so outlandishly over-the-top that it should betray its gritty roots, but its so steeped in atmosphere and that key element, grime, that it becomes a fantasy-laden, insane ride amongst a decaying city and one its most colourful characters.

For anyone who has seen the work of Abel Ferrara, especially two of his most popular films, The Driller Killer (1979) and Bad Lieutenant (1992), will know what they are in for. His New York is not the one you see in the earlier works of Woody Allen, but one of whacked-out prostitutes, cocaine-sniffing criminals, inner-city poverty, and angry, sweaty, middle-aged detectives. We do glimpse the glitzier side of the city in King of New York, as Frank often mingles with the politicians and power- players, but it is a world of black suits and orange lighting, and a world that shares the same depravity and sleaze as the lower-classes. It's a grim thing to see through Abel Ferrara's gaze, but boy is it brimming with atmosphere. This will always play second or third fiddle to the likes of Scarface (1983), but King of New York is the film the former could never be, and in its own depressing way, is a much better film. Undoubtedly Ferrara's finest, and most 'polished' work.


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Italy | USA



Release Date:

29 August 1991 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

King of New York See more »


Box Office


$5,300,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$411,597, 30 September 1990

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby SR



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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