Retro Film Review: Naked City: Justice with a Bullet (1998)

in #film2 months ago


Not so long ago New York enjoyed reputation of a city where innocent people had more chance of getting killed than in war-ravaged places like Belfast or Beirut. These days, thanks to Giuliani, situation has improved but New York still offers plenty of dangers to naive and inexperienced outsiders. This is portrayed at the beginning of Naked City: Justice with a Bullet, 1998 cable television film written and directed by Jeff Freilich. Shortly after arriving in New York to spend vacation, two young women from small town - Merri Coffman (played by Robin Tunney) and Sarah Tubbs (played by Kathryn Erbe) - get conned out of their money by small time criminal pretending to be a cab driver. Two other men - NYPD Sergeant Daniel Muldoon (played by Scott Glen) and Officer James Halloran (played by Courtney B. Vance) – also earn their living under the guise of cab drivers. They are given the task of handling the tourists' case. They try to give some useful advice to the women, namely how to have a good time in New York without money. But, instead of learning anything from their unpleasant experience, two women only get into more trouble and end up with drug dealers. In the meantime, Halloran gets visited by Chaz (played by Giancarlo Esposito), an old friend with rather sinister agenda.

Naked City: Justice with a Bullet is the first of two cable television films inspired by 1950s television show about seedier sides of New York life. Despite the more liberal content standards of cable television (word "naked" from the title obviously inspired costume design for some female characters), this film would hardly arouse anyone's interest. This is mostly due to poor script which filled the plot with dislikeable characters and preposterous situations. Freilich's direction isn't much better - all important plot twists are telegraphed in advance and there isn't any suspense for the viewers. The cast is full of talented people, but they simply can't cope with poor writing. Some, like Esposito, try their best, while others, like Glen, know that their efforts would be worthless and chose to sleepwalk through their roles instead. Naked City: Justice with a Bullet shows that cable television can produce remakes as pointless as those created by mainstream Hollywood.

RATING: 2/10 (-)

(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup on July 24th 2004)

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