Harvey Keitel stars as a FBI agent in this dark and death-filled tale of gangs in London. The premise is a simple one, one that we've seen in many other mob movies. The older, established mobsters have a code of honor and try to do things the proper way. The rash, up and coming punks care nothing for honor and just want quick cash and drugs. In this case, it's an American - Carl Frazer (played by Viggo Mortensen) who is causing the trouble. The FBI has sent John Harris (Keitel) to help the London police force to shut him down.
Carl is a truly psychotic drug / arms dealer who loves to gather up lost but innocent young men, tell them that they are special, and then turn them into cold blooded killers. Carl gets his thrills from corrupting the virtuous. There are many comments throughout the movie - both by the cops and the old time mobsters - about how these young, sweet kids are having their lives destroyed by drugs and the lure of cash. In one scene, an old mob guy is attacked by two of these 'kids' who are trying to kill him. When he turns the tables on them, he refuses to shoot them - he just tells them to leave him alone.
I admit that I have a bit of an issue with this constant referring to the adult men as "kids" - they appear to be in their early 20s, they are out drinking, working, having lives. It's always tragic when someone is led astray, but to call them helpless "boys" or "kids" is marginalizing their maturity, in my mind. Maybe if they'd made the boys in the movie in the 13-15 age range it would have played better with me.
In any case, the movie is a little cardboardy. You have the crooked cops. Keitel is the hard-FBI-guy-who-is-still-tender. The mob guy is rough but tender too. Viggo is over the top as the psycho who smashes a prostitute's face in at a party because she was snorting coke instead of doing her job. His main lines and action only let him show 'moralless insanity' without many shades of anything else. Keitel got a lot of good moments and depth in his role, being tough with the bad guys, really caring about the innocent, and wrapped up in knots by his home life. Another great role was provided to Craig Kelly - he was great as the young man (oops I mean helpless boy) who first tries to avoid getting sucked into the situation, but finally has to make some hard decisions.
On the violence end, there was a lot of it. There was also a lot of loud clubbing, meaning that either your ears are being blown out by the noise or you're missing the soft dialogue because it's muddled. I usually don't have any issues at all with sound balance on a DVD so I really did find it odd how the mix was done here. Maybe that was part of the intention - to make you feel like you didn't know what was going on and were immersed in this throbbing London scene.
A great movie to watch once - either rental or on TV - before you decide if you want to actually own it.
Pretty much all images with Viggo were very dark, he was a shadows person :)
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