Saturday, 14 June 2014

Prince of the City [1981]

Prince of the City, based on a true story, formed the middle chapter of Lumet’s topical trilogy on ‘New York Police Corruption’, was separated by nearly a decade on either side by Serpico and Q & A. Though not as famous as the former or as brutal as the latter, this was possibly the most ambitious of the lot; and at a mammoth 167 minutes, it covered both width and depth while still being highly engaging. Daniel (Treat Williams), a boisterous and seemingly upright cop with the narcotics division, is approached by a federal prosecutor (Norman Parker) to help the State weed out corruption from the forces. After much persuasion and self-reflection on the degradation surrounding him, he agrees to help provided he never has to rat on his partners. However, what follows over the next couple of years, as dirt starts emerging and difficult choices are made, could never have been gauged by him, as his close friends start getting implicated, resulting in heartbreaks and turmoil, and he himself becomes a suspect for the committee, not to mention a pariah among his buddies and a potential target for assassination. Lumet, in his typically understated style, marvelously captured the complex investigation process and the immense human toll it took, not least of all on the protagonist. Williams, in a role that was conceived for Al Pacino who turned it down on account of perceived similarities with Serpico, gave an effective turn, particularly in how the internal and external forces slowly wear him down. The ensemble supporting cast, covering cops, mobsters, lawyers, politicians, etc., was top-notch, in this brooding, tense, deeply ambivalent, well photographed and documentary-like film on the inherent ambiguities of such terms as innocence and guilt.

Director: Sidney Lumet
Genre: Drama/Police Drama/Urban Drama/Ensemble Film
Language: English
Country: US

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