City of Industry Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1998

Why don't you call the police?
I'm my own police!

If there is one actor in American film that can play a code-bound criminal with a feral intensity, that actor would have to be Harvey Keitel. Though there are other non-genre offerings in his filmography, such as "The Piano" and "Ulysses' Gaze", he is most recognized for his roles in "Bad Lieutenant", "Reservoir Dogs", and "Pulp Fiction". "City of Industry" casts Keitel in this type of role again, a role that he plays with relish and reticence. Unfortunately, that's about the only thing going for this derivative heist-gone-wrong-revenge flick.

Roy Egan (Keitel) is asked by his brother Lee (Timothy Hutton, who recently appeared alongside David Duchovny in "Playing God") to take part in a $3 million diamond heist in the affluent city of Palm Springs. Apparently, the Russian Mafia (who pop up in every other movie and TV show these days) delivers them to a certain jewelry store once a year, and Lee has a plan to intercept them. He is Jorge Montana (Wade Dominguez), who is jailbound for a weapons offense, causing great consternation for his wife Rachel (Famke Janssen, seen recently in "Deep Rising") and his two children. And finally, Skip Kovich (Stephen Dorff) rounds out the team, an erratic gang-banger-wannabe with a mean streak. The heist is executed flawlessly, but before they get a chance to celebrate, Skip decides that he wants everything for himself, and impassionately shoots Jorge and Lee in cold blood. Roy manages to escape, and from his home base in the City of Industry, he ruthlessly tracks down Skip in his bid to exact revenge.

The script by Ken Solarz lacks both innovation and logic, with its hastily-whipped-up pastiche of tired crime genre conventions. The majority of characters in the story are mere window dressing, who seem to be set up for something important, only to disappear by the next scene. This, of course, leads to a plethora of uninteresting characters and a confused storyline. For example, during the robbery, the Russian Mafia-type being relieved of the diamonds threatens the gang of four with retribution-- but nothing comes of this. For the rest of the film, there is no sign of the Russian Mafia, who should be pretty miffed about the whole robbery thing (fer chrissakes, they didn't even wear masks during the robbery!). Another example would be Skip's shifting alliances with different gangs that is never explained-- in one scene, he is allied with a black gang, and in the next, he's surrounded by a Chinese one. Even the ending reflects this schizophrenic screenwriting, when the film suddenly grows a narrator, telling the story from a point-of-view that was never really established in the first place.

About the only saving grace for COI is Keitel's performance. There are a few memorable scenes where Keitel gets to chew up scenery with his dogged and determined acting chops, such as the final struggle between a debilitated Roy and Skip, but these are few and far between. Famke Janssen is affecting as Roy's heartbroken accomplice, showing as much dramatic range as possible for her sketchily-written character. Performances aside, the film does show some technical merit with some great cinematography of the trashy industrial wastelands that surround the City of Angels.

This film disappeared from theaters last summer pretty quickly, and deservedly so, with its uninteresting dialogue (there is only one real good line in the whole pic) and choppy narrative. There's not much to recommend in "City of Industry", except for Harvey Keitel, who manages to look good, even in a bad movie.

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