Fear City (1984) – Film Review

Fear City Film Review

Director: Abel Ferrara
Cast: Tom Berenger, Melanie Griffith, Billy Dee Williams
Certificate: 18

By Roger Crow

Forty years after it thrilled and probably appalled cinemagoers, director Abel Ferrara’s equally slick and grungy thriller is dusted down for a new audience.

As the helmer also gave us The Driller Killer and Bad Lieutenant, you know it’s not going to be a movie for the easily shocked.

Fear City Film Review

Following a truly awful opening song by New York Dolls veteran David Johansen (the ghostly cabby in Scrooged), it feels like we’re in pre-Showgirls territory with lingering shots of strippers in a seedy club. Star of the show is Melanie Griffith, before she was really famous, and major actors like Tom Berenger and an uber smooth Billy Dee Williams.

“Reds really popping”

The villain is a ripped martial artist who parades naked around his warehouse and scribbles his Travis Bickle-style ramblings into an eponymous journal. I imagine one of the pages read ‘How on earth did I get involved in such a so-so movie?’

Anyway, he goes around killing strippers while generic cops, including punch-drunk ex-boxer Berenger, try to track him down.

Like Tom’s later movie Someone To Watch Over Me, there’s one of those opening aerial shots of New York, but once Ridley Scott gave us his take on the Big Apple, everything that came before looked a bit lacklustre by comparison.

Picture and sound quality is rather good on the new version. It’s scrubbed up well, with those reds really popping. Oh and as it’s obviously always raining in New York, those neon reflections look great too.

Fear City Film Review

“Curious eighties thriller”

Around the same time, Brian DePalma was working on Body Double, another slick and sleazy serial killer thriller with Griffith, which owed a debt to Ferarra’s Driller Killer.

So, an A/B-list cast sold short by a Z-list script. Berenger and Dee Williams deserved far better. As did Griffith and Maria Conchita Alonso (Predator 2). Look out too for Ola Raye, who popped up in that Michael Jackson Thriller video a year before.

One for curious eighties thriller fans only.

  • Uncut version of Fear City with SD inserts (97 Minutes)
  • Commentary with film critic Kevin Lyons
  • Extended trailer
  • Limited edition booklet: Includes ‘Seeing Red: A Neo-Noir Guide’ by Rich Johnson and ‘Returning to Fear City’ by Brad Stevens
Fear City is released on Blu-ray by 101 Films

Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.