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Knights of the City
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Jack Sommersby

"Good-Looking, Less Filling"
2 stars

One of those sporadically-released New World Pictures efforts that disappeared from theatres as quickly as it appeared.

It took guts for a second-rate talent like Leon Isaac Kennedy to write and star in the 1981 remake of the classic boxing picture Body and Soul, and his starring in the three entries of the Penitentiary series as another boxer character certainly indicated his desire to be the black Sylvester Stallone. None of those movies were particularly memorable, and neither is Knights of the City, a harmless but entirely forgettable trifle Kennedy wrote and produced as well as stars in. Set in Miami and detailing Kennedy's gang leader Troy's ambitions to become a big-time rap singer, it tries mixing Walter Hill's The Warriors with Michael Schultze's Krush Groove, only it's minus the kinetic excitement of the former and standout song-and-dance numbers of the latter. (The fusing of genres here is as clunky as a drunk fumbling about for his car keys.) Troy and his guys are childhood friends who've kept their gang together all these years, and while money keeps coming in from the business owners they charge for "protection," a rival gang has taken to stealing vehicles in their territory, which, of course, has lead to numerous fights that Troy has grown weary of. But their luck would seem to have changed when they're locked up in jail for the night and a wealthy record executive in the next cell over who's been charged with drunken driving gets a listen to the gang's singing -- he gives them his business card and tells them to come see him when they get out. This eventually leads to Troy and his cohorts competing in a ten-thousand-dollar singing competition, Troy becoming infatuated with and starting an affair with the executive's Harvard-educated daughter, and Troy's jealous girlfriend looking to get revenge on him for his two-timing by shifting allegiance to the rival gang's leader. First and foremost problem is Kennedy, who tries relying on a dynamic screen presence he simply doesn't have; not only does he make one lackluster protagonist, but the screenplay he's concocted is devoid of even rudimentary construction and semi-adequate dialogue. As the love interest, Wendy Barry is an absolute zero both emotionally and erotically. Dominic Orlando, making his directorial debut after four music videos, has gotten some stylish lighting from the adept cinematographer Rolf Kestermann but can't generate much in the way of momentum or excitement. That leaves Nicholas Campbell, who gives the movie's standout performance as Troy's loyal second-in-command. Previously effective as the serial killer in The Dead Zone, Campbell makes us feel we're at a real movie whenever he's on screen; thankfully, he's not an actor only as good as the material. For a better Miami-set gang-members-as-heroes tale, the underappreciated Michael Mann-produced Band of the Hand is a far better bet.

The DVD offers only a full-frame presentation, which is a shame because the at-times gorgeous lighting is one of the movie's very few virtues.

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originally posted: 03/07/14 08:24:22
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  14-Feb-1986 (R)



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