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For the Charlie Chaplin film, see A King in New York.

King of New York is a crime drama film, starring Christopher Walken, Laurence Fishburne, David Caruso, Wesley Snipes, Victor Argo, Steve Buscemi and Giancarlo Esposito. It was directed by independent filmmaker Abel Ferrara and written by his long-time partner and close friend Nicholas St. John.

The production and costs of the film was financed through mainly Italian interests, including Silvio Berlusconi. Reteitalia Spa produced the feature.


The film opens with Frank White (Christopher Walken), a wealthy and powerful drug lord, riding by private limousine into New York over the Queensboro Bridgemarker after being released on parole from Sing Singmarker from serving time on drug-related charges. Emilio El Zapa (Freddy Howard), a Colombianmarker drug dealer, enters a telephone booth, where he is almost immediately gunned-down by three assailants. As the hit men leave, one of them drops a newspaper headline onto Zapa's lap which announces Frank White's release.

Across town, Zapa's partner, King Tito (Ernest Abuba), sits in a hotel room with Jimmy Jump (Fishburne) and Test Tube (Buscemi), a pair of gangsters who are negotiating the purchase of several kilograms of cocaine. Finally, the two agree to pay Tito $100,000 up front, plus 10% of the street value (transportation costs, Tito quips). When Tito opens the suitcase ostensibly containing the money, however, he discovers that it is full of tampons ("They're for the bullet holes, puta!"). Jump and Test Tube then draw pistols, shoot Tito and his bodyguards to death, and steal the cocaine.

A few hours later, in the presidential suite at the Plaza Hotelmarker, Frank White steps out of the shower to discover that Jump, Test Tube, and the three phone booth killers are waiting for him. They are revealed to be the core members of his gang, and they welcome him home with a gift of champagne and Zapa's briefcase full of money. After an exchange of pleasantries, Frank leaves to meet two of his many lawyers, Joey Dalesio (Paul Calderon) and Jennifer (Janet Julian), for dinner.

After the dinner, during which Frank proclaims himself "reformed", expresses his desire to be elected mayor, and asks Dalesio to set up a meeting with Mafia boss Arty Clay (Frank Gio), he and Jennifer leave to take a ride on the subway, where it is revealed that she is one of his many mistresses. Upon being confronted by three muggers (led by Harold Perrineau), Frank first brandishes his gun, then gives them a wad of money, telling them to ask for him at the Plaza Hotel if they want work.

In Little Italy, Dalesio attempts to set up Frank's meeting with Arty Clay, but the crime lord refuses to accept. Referring to Frank as a "nigger-lover", Clay proceeds to urinate on Dalesio's shoes, and tells him that it's a message for his boss. Upon hearing of this, Frank, Jump, and several other members of the gang arrive at Clay's social club, where Frank tells Clay that he wants a percentage of all Clay's profits. When Clay refuses and insults him to his face, Frank draws his gun and empties it into the mafioso. As he makes his way out, Frank announces to Clay's henchmen that if they don't want to be continually mistreated as they currently are, they can all find employment at the Plaza. Moments later a couple of Clay's goons (including Robert LaSardo) follow Frank out of the door.

The next night, after watching an avant-garde play, Frank confronts a city councilman about the city's failure to continue the funding of a hospital in a poverty-stricken area of the South Bronx. When the councilman explains that there wasn't enough money in the budget, Frank vows to fund the facility himself. Moments later, he is confronted by Detective Roy Bishop (Victor Argo) and his right-hand men, Dennis Gilley (David Caruso) and Thomas Flanigan (Wesley Snipes), three members of the NYPD's narcotics squad, who tell him that they are taking him to police headquarters for questioning. Instead, the three drive him to an abandoned lot, where they show him the body of Emilio El Zapa in the trunk of their car. When Frank refuses to confess to the crime, Gilley and Flanigan beat him. The cops then drive off, leaving Frank to find his own way home.

Apparently unfazed by Bishop's warnings, Frank sends Dalesio to Chinatown to make contact with Larry Wong (Joey Chin), a local Triad gang leader who possesses 100 kilos (220 pounds) of cocaine worth over $15 million on the street. Larry, however, is leery of dealing with Frank, especially after the killing of Arty Clay. He demands that Frank meet him alone on neutral ground to discuss the deal. As the meeting is being scheduled, however, Jimmy Jump and several of Frank's top lieutenants are arrested by Gilley and Flanigan, who reveal that one of King Tito's bodyguards is still alive and willing to testify against them.

Meeting at the very hospital he is intent on saving, Frank attempts to hammer out a deal with Larry. The Triad demands $3 million up front and another $500,000 after the drugs are sold, but Frank counters that, since the drugs are worth over five times that amount on the street, the two team up, with Larry providing the drugs and Frank providing the dealers, then split the profits evenly. When Frank insists that part of the profits be directed into funding the hospital, however, Larry turns him down and demands that Frank decide immediately whether he want to buy the drugs for $3.5 million or not at all. Frank declines and the two part ways.

Returning to the Plaza, Frank learns of Jump's arrest and orders his lawyers to arrange their release, a process that eventually entails paying $1 million in bail for each man. Frank sends his limousine to the police station to pick up Jump and his men, and they head directly to Chinatown, where they massacre Larry Wong and his entire gang in a quick shootout. They then find the stockpiles of Larry Wong's cocaine in large barrels marked for MSG in a basement storage.

With the money gained from selling the Triad's cocaine, Frank sets up a fundraiser, hosted by singer Freddie Jackson, to raise even more money for the hospital. Witnessing this latest outrage on TV, Gilley, Flanigan, and several like-minded officers resolve to use extrajudicial means to get rid of Frank, despite Bishop's objections. Posing as drug dealers, they bribe Joey Dalesio into leading them to the nightclub where Frank and most of his men are partying (among them are the subway muggers). Catching the criminals unaware, the hit squad bursts in with guns blazing, succeeding in slaying all of Frank's girlfriends and some of his gang.

Fleeing in their limousine in a long chase over the Queensboro Bridge, Frank and Jump trade shots with the police, killing all of them except Gilley and Flanigan. After momentarily giving their pursuers the slip, the two men split up, with the nearly-maniacal Jump staying behind to deal with the two cops. Sneaking up on Flanigan, Jump shoots him five times in the chest, puncturing his ballistic vest. Seeing this, Gilley shoots Jump several times in the chest and abdomen and, after pausing to attempt CPR on his ill-fated partner, kills his assailant as Jump laughs proudly with a single shot to the head. Reeling from the unexpected assault and the loss of his friend, Frank responds with narcoterrorism. A few days after the murders, as Gilley is leaving Flanigan's funeral, Frank kills him personally with a single shotgun blast to the head.

That night, after watching his surviving henchmen kill Dalesio for ratting out to the cops, Frank shows up at Roy Bishop's apartment, telling him that he has placed a $250,000 bounty on every detective involved on the case, including Bishop. Still holding Bishop at gunpoint, Frank explains that he killed Tito, Larry, Arty Clay, Zapa and their affiliates simply because he disapproved of their business practices, which included the exploitation of immigrants and child prostitution. When Bishop asks: "Did you really think you could get away with killing all these people?" Frank replies with the most often-quoted line of the film: "I never killed anyone who didn't deserve it."

His business seemingly concluded, Frank forces Bishop to handcuff himself to a chair before taking his leave. As Frank escapes down to the subway, Bishop uses a gun from a nearby drawer to free himself and gives chase. Following Frank into a subway car, Bishop corners him, causing Frank to take a woman hostage. During the ensuing standoff, Frank fires on Bishop, killing him, but not before the policeman is able to fire off one last shot himself. Escaping from the train car and into a nearby taxi in Times Square, Frank looks down to see that he has been hit. As police officers surround the car, Frank closes his eyes and goes limp in his seat. The last image of the film is his gun falling limply to his side.


In popular culture

The film has achieved cult film status and is extremely popular among fans of gangsta rap. This may be because much of its soundtrack, including the title song, was provided by Schoolly D, a famous rapper often called the "Godfather of Gangsta Rap." It has also become popular with fans of Christopher Walken, many of whom rate his performance as Frank White as one of his best. The Notorious B.I.G. referred to himself as "the black Frank White" on his album Ready to Die.

In We Gonna Make It, Jadakiss alludes to the subway scene when he says, "But come and see me at the Plaza Hotel, I might give you a job." And in "Monday Night Football," Styles P alludes to Gilley's death: "Frank White–style shotgun blow off half of ya head."

On Dan the Automator's A Better Tomorrow, Kool Keith quips that he is the "king of New York, patrolling Alphabet Citymarker." Savage As Fuck by Smoov-E opens with audio of Walken in the poker scene with Arty, which is also on the 1995 Fat Joe album Jealous One's Envy. On 20 April 2004, Artisan Entertainment re-released the film on a two-disc special-edition DVD with new commentary by Abel Ferrara, a documentary, trailers and a Schoolly D music video.


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