Fear City (1984)

Spread the weird

RATING– ✮✮✮

DIRECTOR– Abel Ferrara

PLOT– An ex-boxer with PTSD named Matty has opened the Starlite Talent Agency with his buddy Nicky. They specialize in supplying exotic dancers to strip clubs run by the mafia.

Matty’s bisexual girlfriend Loretta has been tabbed as the next superstar of the stripper universe. However, she can’t decide whether she wants to date her pimp or her fellow stripper Leila and it’s affecting her work… so she has sex with both.

On the other side of town, one of Starlite’s favorite strippers is attacked in a back alley by a psychotic scissor-wielding karate blackbelt with a serious case of misogyny. He cuts off a few of her fingers and leaves her for dead. For Matty, this brings back painful memories of him punching a Puerto Rican to death. So he takes off his shirt and smokes a cigarette.

NYPD Detective Al Wheeler visits one of the clubs and warns the mafia and Matty to let the cops handle the case. Nicky uses the bathroom and, while breaking the seal on the urinal, he notices a middle-aged architect combing his hair. Naturally this makes Nicky think he’s the killer attacking his strippers. He lures the architect into the kitchen with the promise of sex where he and a few friends beat the architect senseless.

Meanwhile, the real killer kidnaps and tortures Leila which causes Loretta to take drugs. Being strung out on the cocaine, she misses her next gig, so Nicky sends his ugliest dancer as a replacement. The mafia is not happy and vow to find the killer.

Dectective Al chokes a prisoner, the killer does yoga in the nude, Loretta takes even more drugs, and Matty attends church and goes to confession.

Loretta, broke from missing all her stripping jobs, borrows money from a friend and gets beat up by her drug-dealer. The killer notices and tries to attack her. However, Matty is hiding nearby and jumps out. His boxing skills are superior to the killer’s karate chops. Matty murders the killer and saves his drug-addicted stripper girlfriend.

They live happily ever after.

5 REASONS TO WATCH

  1. Million-dollar strippers
  2. Strip clubs with stadium style seating
  3. Trimming fingernails a little to close
  4. A white boxer who actually wins
  5. The un-sexiest stripper ever

REVIEWFear City isn’t a bad movie… it isn’t a particulary good movie either.

The actors are competent… but often they’re asked to deliver some rather silly melodramatic lines. The direction is appropriate… but relies on tricks (like montages and flashbacks) when the movie bogs down. The story is intriguing… but crosses over into contrived a little too easily.

Maybe the biggest mistake in the whole film is the manufactured backstory of the hero. He’s a former boxer who killed an opponent in the ring.

I’m positive that had that happened to an athlete, there would be profound effects for his life.

However, the flashbacks are so mindless and repetitive, it drags the rest of the movie way down. How many times do I need to be reminded that our hero is a tough guy with a troubled past?

Evidently, about 16 times over 95 minutes.

Or maybe the biggest mistake is the condescending treatment of women. Exploitation movies are notorious for this, but with a big budget and A-list actors, you’d think they would’ve toned down the helplessness of every single woman.

I guess it comes with the territory when your story is essentially a serial killer stalking exotic dancers…

On the plus side, Tom Berenger and Melanie Griffith are fine actors. The supporting actors are some of the best in Hollywood. Plus, it’s a lot of fun seeing Times Square before it became a corporate hotspot… back before The Disney Store and Aéropostale took over… when neon signs flashed the latest elicit adult movies titles and sleazy pawn shops looking to take advantage of the desperate lined the rest of the street.

On a side note… A somewhat interesting story that’s followed Fear City all these years is the mystery of the actor who plays the killer in the film. His name is never mentioned onscreen. His name is not listed in the credits. And it seems no one really knows who the actor is…

Mystery actor? I guess…

There’s a theory (and it’s even listed on IMDB) that the actor was Neil Clifford. After watching thousands of B-movies, I’m not so sure Mr. Clifford is the answer to the mystery…

But that’s an argument for another day.

Fear City has plenty of enjoyable parts and some parts that’ll make you reach for the fast-forward button. Have a look.


Left with no money for a couch, Gary was beginning to regret buying both drawings of a naked dude.