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Murder Slim Review: PRINCE OF THE CITY

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In the vein of SERPICO, PRINCE OF THE CITY follows the real-life story of a cop who turns undercover to expose corruption within the force. The twist with PRINCE OF THE CITY is that Treat Williams' Daniel Ciello is not as clean as Al Pacino's Serpico. Ciello has been caught for various shonky practices... predominantly paying for information with drugs and money to help his vice squad catch the higher-up dealers. At first, he's forced into the role of "rat" on the promise that both himself and his close cop buddies will be protected.

Poor old Treat Williams has a bad reputation but - like a bunch of Hollywood actors who've been in some shitty movies - put him in a movie with a decent script and he's solid. His character is interesting, particularly when Ciello starts to get a real taste for ratting out the police's mob contacts. He starts to take outrageous chances, avoiding death through a little luck and a lot of balls. You'll plug for the guy overall, but Ciello can be an annoying bug-eyed lunatic at times. That allows PRINCE OF THE CITY to take surprising yet rational turns.

The first two thirds of the movie are by far the strongest. Here we see Ciello's vice squad carry out some busts, have some macho banter, and extract information in a bunch of interesting ways. The best scene is with Ciello chasing a junkie in a beautifully shot scene. Lumet - who's starting to get more recognition after his death - puts together a fantastic, tense scene. It's a classic set piece, with the figures running though the night and the driving rain. Sadly it's one never talked about.

PRINCE OF THE CITY still isn't out DVD in the UK. So is it some sort of lost classic overall? No, not quite.

Reviews from its release date often say the last third drags, and this is one of the few times I'll agree with them. Ciello gets bogged down in the legal side of the things, trudging in and out of law courts. Sadly, we're trudging along with him. It gets across the slow wheels of the court system, but condensing all that would have maintained the slick, engrossing pace of the first two thirds.

PRINCE OF THE CITY is a very good movie and one you should try to find. It has a great final moment too. It's just a shame it didn't arrive 20 minutes earlier.

Review by Steve Hussy