Deep Cuts: “Fear City” 1984 Dir. Abel Ferrara

With Tom Berenger, Billy Dee Williams, Melanie Griffith, Jack Scalia, Rae Dawn Chong and Michael V. Gazzo

“There’s nothing I hate more than guineas in Cadillacs.” –Al Wheeler (Billy Dee Williams)

    I absolutely love Abel Ferrara’s films. While I might not enjoy watching them, I do appreciate and respect the shit out of them. I’ve seen most of his films, and they’re very hard to come by. His staples, “Bad Lieutenant”, “Dangerous Game” and “The Funeral” are floating around on DVD, but it’s his deeper cuts that are very, very hard to come by. This is mainly due to the fact that most of his films fail to find distribution.

If Ferrara ever made a mainstream film, it would be “Fear City”. Starring, at the time, an A-list cast, which is very unusual for a Ferrara film. This film, much like his others, takes place in New York City where the city is turned upside down by a serial killer who is preying on strippers.

    Tom Berenger headlines the cast as Matt Rossi, a former boxer who is now a talent agent for strippers. He runs the agency with his best friend and partner, Nicky (Jack Scalia). Rossi lines up all the girls for most of the clubs in New York that the Italian mob owns and runs.

He frequents one club that’s run by Michael V. Gazzo (most known from “Godfather 2” and “Fingers”) to see his ex-girlfriend Loretta (Melanie Griffith) perform. Rossi is a complex character; he’s haunted by his last boxing match that left the other fighter dead. He’s also trying to vie for the attention of Loretta, and now he’s out to find the serial killer.

    Billy Dee Williams gives a command performance as Al Wheeler, a hardnosed vice cop who now works for homicide. He’s also on the hunt for the serial killer, all the while clashing with the mob and Rossi. Williams has always been an excellent character actor, and I will always think of him as Lando and the original Harvey Dent, but in this film, he’s the anti-Lando. He’s terrific.

“Fear City” is a very strange and bizarre film. What else would you expect from Ferrara? This film is very choppy and disjointed, due to two reasons. The first is because the version I watched (DVD from Amazon) is the “cut” version that edits out a lot the gruesome violence and unapologetic nudity that was in the original cut. I’m Not saying the version I watched is tame, because it’s not.

The second reason this is such a disjointed movie is because that is essentially Ferrara’s authorship. All of his films aren’t cohesive or even coherent. Why should they be? Life isn’t. Ferrara and his screenwriting partner Nicholas St. John create yet another film that displays the dark side of humanity that doesn’t need explanations or accountability, because the evil that brews inside this killer reminds me much of Travis Bickle, he is a manifestation of society.

    What I found really fascinating about this film is the fact that the serial killer in the film isn’t given a name and even more interesting is that he’s not even credited in the film. He’s an actor I’ve never seen before, and while searching the IMDb message boards and using the Google Machine, I still can’t find out who this guy is. But I can tell you one thing; he scared the shit out of me in this movie.

“Fear City” is available for purchase on DVD on Amazon, and also to rent on Amazon Prime for $1.99.

Rating: 8/10

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“Inception” – 2010. Dir. Christopher Nolan

With Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Pete Posthlewaite, with Tom Berenger, and Michael Caine.

“I love you but I can’t trust you anymore.” – Cobb

Christopher Nolan knows how to make a film. Not a movie, a film. He’s very unique in the way of transforming a film into a summer blockbuster. “Inception” is a riddle, a maze that imbeds itself into your mind. What I found very interesting about the film was the lack of character development and the suspension of the plot. Sure there is one, you can essentially follow it, but when the plot deviates into different story arcs, you’re lost within the film. You’re lost within a dream, within a dream, within a dream leaving you trying to understand what reality is.

The concept of technology used in the film is monumental. In the not so distant future there is a technology available to enter someone’s mind when they are asleep. This is how secrets, the deepest of secrets get stolen. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Cobb who is the best “inceptor” there is. He works as an inception preventer, teaching people’s minds how to prevent an intruder like himself from stealing their secrets.

This is a complex concept, but at the same time it’s almost plausible. What gets really complex is how inception actually works. We’re told little but we’re shown quite a bit. I don’t want to get into it and spoil any plot elements, nor do I think I can formulate a concrete opinion without seeing the film again. Look, it was midnight, I had to be at work at seven this morning, I was tired and the air conditioning wasn’t really working in the theater. I sweat a lot, okay?

The ensemble cast is really worth your time here. The characters (aside from DiCaprio’s) aren’t developed at all. We know next to nothing about any of them. Watanabe is fucking wonderful as the quasi villainish Saito who kind of hires DiCaprio for an audition of his skills. He’s undoubtedly the best Japanese actor since Tishiro Mifune.

I’ve never, ever been a fan of Ellen Page. I can’t stand her. I think she’s an egotistical little tart who plays the same character in every film. Her in Inception, she’s slightly different – though she does display the rouge female character traits. For the first time in my life, I enjoyed her performance.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has become something of an anomaly in these recent years. He’s turned the page hardcore from “Angels in the Outfield”. He looks really good in this film, with his three piece suit and slicked back hair, if he chooses his films right, he maybe the next Heath Ledger who was going to be the next Daniel Day-Lewis.

Marion Cotillard is the standout in the film where she plays Cobb’s wife. She is such an incredible actress – and ever since she won her Academy award she’s done nothing short of stepping up her game and finding the right roles for her. She’s not only adorable, but there is a second or two in the film where she gave me chills. She is such a rare actor – her command is unreal.

Tom Hardy is strange in the film. I’m not sure what his exact role was, but he mainly supplements for slight comedic relief. I wasn’t really thrilled by him, more numb than anything. It’ll be interesting to see him as Mad Max.

I love that Michael Caine was in the film because he’s Michael Caine and Nolan loves him. He’s really nothing special, but he’s still a treat none the less. I guess one can argue his importance to the plot, which he does have an important role with it, but he was in it to be in it.

Nolan alumni, Cillian Murphy shows up towards the climax of the film as the new “mark”. Pete Posthlewaite plays his father who is a very vague rich and powerful man. Doesn’t it seem like Posthlewaite and Nolan should have worked together before? I think so.

How in the FUCK did Tom Berenger get in this movie? I have no idea how, but I love it! Nolan continues to keep up his tradition of using an actor who hasn’t seen a theatrical release in a quite a while as a small and vital role in his films. Think Rutger Hauer in “Batman Begins”, Eric Roberts in “The Dark Knight” and now Tom Berenger in “Inception”. I love it!

Okay – so, Leonardo DiCaprio. The problem I have with him is this: his character Cobb mirrors that of Teddy Daniels for “Shutter Island” way too much. I don’t want to give away any plot details to the film, since most of you tend to go in “blind”. He really should have played one or the other. He just wasn’t believable as Cobb to me, roll your eyes, but Christian Bale would have been better. I’m not sold on DiCaprio. He’s way too prolific for me to accept any of his characters as authentic. I see an actor, who is in too many movies, not a colorful spectrum of characters. I don’t think DiCaprio is a great actor. He’s good, but not what everyone seems to think. And oh yes, the neck beard is back with a vengeance in “Inception”. Just fucking shave it off, or wear a fake. Shit’s getting real old.

**SPOILERS**

I think I have a firm grasp on the dream within a dream within a dream concept. There are three, maybe even four levels of dream stages. I took two things away from the film, one that Saito was more than likely an architect as well. Some of the film took place in his “world”. The second was that the ending of the film was a dream that was built by Ellen Page’s character. She’s the only one who knew how Cobb’s totem worked. He explained it too her, and she’s the only one that had seen Cobb’s memories.

Did you ever notice how you never saw Cobb’s children’s faces until the end of the film? It played like his memory played, until they turned around and looked at Cobb. How could Cobb’s reality be a carbon copy of his dream? I feel that Page built his dream, made it into a reality so that Cobb could “live”. Remember that small scene when Cobb is shown the people who are plugged in to dream, just so they can live? That’s what I think happened to Cobb.

**END SPOILERS**

“Inception” is nothing less than a brilliant film that is more of a mind fuck than your ex boy/girlfriend. It’s an incredibly smart film without trying to be too smart. I understand a lot of the film, I really do, but I just didn’t care for some of it; yet Christopher Nolan has proved once again that he is the real deal. This film is so epic and brilliant; it’s truly a tremendous feat. He and Paul Thomas Anderson are the two most important filmmakers of our generation.

Rating: 10/10