Prime Video movie of the day: Christopher Walken chews the scenery as a crime boss in King of New York

Still from King of New York
(Image credit: Carolco)
Movie of the Day

Every day, we cut through the bottomless list of streaming options and recommend something to watch. See all our Netflix movie of the day picks, or our Prime Video movie of the day choices.

Set in the 1980s and released in 1990, King of New York features one of Christopher Walken's most memorable performances in one of his most divisive movies. 

Walken is Frank White, a drug lord fresh out of prison and determined to make New York bend to his will: "from now on, nothing happens without my permission". And he's supported by an excellent cast including Lawrence Fishburne, David Caruso, Wesley Snipes, Steve Buscemi and Giancarlo Esposito. The critics who liked it loved it; the critics who didn't, hated it. You can see which side you're on if you're a Prime Video subscriber.

Is King of New York worth watching?

I think so. It's a fascinating movie that mixes familiar gangster tropes with the rise of hip-hop culture, and while the story is one we've seen so many times before Walken is absolutely compelling as the crime lord. David Caruso's great as the young cop trying to bring him down, and Larry Fishburne almost upstages Walken as his trigger-happy right-hand man.

Given that Abel 'Driller Killer' Ferrara is behind the lens, you shouldn't expect much in the way of subtlety here. And many critics felt that the film was overly violent without much in the way of redemption; Time Out said that it was "a film which, despite splendid location work, lurches sloppily and messily from kill to kill, orgy to orgy, coke to crack, cliche to cliche." But the New York Times felt that it worked: "[Ferrara] works unapologetically in B-movie territory, but does it with A-movie style."

Not every critic would agree. The Washington Post said it was "a hepped-up film about drugs that plays as if the filmmakers themselves kept a healthy supply of the stuff at hand." And Empire felt that some of it was based around "preposterous" clichés and "ugly" themes: "it's ugly stuff, with Irish cops, Italian hoods, Asian, Hispanic and Black drug dealers all vying for honors in the most gross, grotesque and depraved categories, and its disturbing disassociation from any moral point of view."

Despite it being a '90s movie featuring a lot of '80s music, it feels like it's really a '70s film: it has the same bleak and nihilistic atmosphere as some of the crime thrillers of that decade. As Victor Oliver of Teletext (high five to our readers who know what I'm talking about there…) wrote: "It looks fantastic, and there is an air of real menace to proceedings. But it seems to belong to another age somehow."

It's a great, gritty movie – but if it doesn't sound like your thing, remember we've got plenty more of the best Prime Video movies.

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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.