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In New York City, a psycho killer is stalking and randomly slashing and killing strippers working in various nightclubs. Matt Rossi is a former boxer trying to escape his past whom is currently employed at a talent agency which caters exotic dancers to the mafia-controlled strip clubs all over Manhattan. Matt and his business partner, Nicky, are relentlessly dogged by Al Wheeler, a persistent police detective on the case of the murdered strippers, and hoping to find something to nail both Matt and Nicky on. Matt is trying to reconcile with his former flame, Loretta, whom also works as a dancer and has a off-again, on-again drug problem. With the police constantly hounding them, and under pressure from his mob boss and other bosses to do something, Matt must somehow face his inner demons to find the killer before he strikes again. Written by
Disappointing follow up for Abel Ferrara to the excellent Ms. 45(1981) for a few reasons. One, there is not the same emotional or intensity level of the previous film. Two, the main character compared to Thana is almost not likable. Three, at times the film is fascinating to watch while other times the film bogs down to boring.
Doesn't know whether it wants to be a slasher pic, a mafia epic or both. The inclusion of the mafia in Fear City(1984) sort of reminds me of Fritz Lang's M(1931). Like in M(1931), the mafia is interested in finding the stalker/murderer because he's hurting their business. Part of Fear City(1984) is a warmup for King of New York(1990) and The Funeral(1996).
A ridiculous aspect of the movie is the idea of the karate killer. I wondered why this film was not named The Karate Killer which is a better title than Fear City(1984). The karate stalker/murderer seems out of place in Fear City(1984) for he is someone who belongs more in a Steven Seagal film and less in an Abel Ferrara feature. Major putdown that hurts the film a lot.
Matt Rossi is a character that's hard to pin down. In some scenes he is arrogant and unlikable. In other scenes Matt Rossi is guilt ridden and vulnerable. Its this guilt ridden quality of Matt Rossi that puts him in the line of Ferrara characters such as Thana(Ms. 45), Frank(King of New York), and the Lt(Bad Lieutenant).
The filming of the sleezy locale of Fear City(1984) is one of the film's saving graces. Abel Ferrara is terrific at showing a part of New York where sleeze, sex , and death are common and life or human flesh is cheap. Done before the current Mayor of New York City cleaned that part of the city up. In the style of many similar Italian erotic thrillers.
Fear City(1984) and Lucio Fulci's The New York Ripper(1982) have a lot in common with each other. One, both films take place in the sleezy parts of Times Square during the 1980s. Two, the two films have a killer whose on an insane mission for human purity. Three, the violence and the sex in Fear City(1984) and New York Ripper(1982) are depicted in an ugly and unpleasent fashion.
Like other Ferrara features except for Bad Lieutenant(1992), Fear City was badly cut for its theatrical release in the United States. It seems that the director's films are not well liked by the MPPA. I might see the movie in a different light if I ever saw the complete uncut version of Fear City(1984). Scenes that were cut or trimmed involved heavy graphic violence.
The first flashback sequence is a fantasic blend of realism and surreal. Done with the same horror quality as the dream of Thana from Ms. 45(1981). The second flashback sequence is even better. Shows how Matt Rossi got involved with Mafia Boss, Carmine.
The fight between boxer Matt Rossi and the Karate Killer is both entertaining and silly. A strange way for Matt Rossi and the Karate Killer to confront each other. This sequence loses some steam after a few minutes bcause of the one sided match. Pales in comparison to the Halloween party massacre sequence in Ms. 45(1981).
Tom Berenger is average in the role of the tormented Matt Rossi. The best acting in Fear City(1984) belongs to Michael V Gazzo who gives some unintentional comic relief as erotic dance club owner, Mikey. The attack on the first dancer is done with the same editing technique as with the first rape on Thana in Ms. 45(1981). Melanie Griffith plays the same kind of character here that she did on Brian De Palma's Body Double(1984)[She is extremely beautiful and sensual more in Fear City than in any other of her films].
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