Friday March 14, 1997
Everything about "City of Industry" is reminiscent of something else, but that doesn't have to be bad. Bringing professionalism and style to familiar genre material, this is a modest, efficient little thriller whose strength is not where it's going but how it gets there.
Yet another of those modern film noirs where evil bakes in the amoral California sun, "City of Industry" owes a considerable debt to one of its most celebrated predecessors, the John Boorman-directed "Point Blank," taken from a novel by Donald Westlake writing as Richard Stark.
That 1967 film featured Lee Marvin as an unstoppable golem of crime, a berserk avenger who only wants what's owed him. All kinds of people think they can handle Marvin's Parker, but they don't know what they're getting into.
As written by Ken Solarz (whose credits include TV's "Miami Vice" and "Crime Story") and directed by John Irvin, "City of Industry" passes Marvin's mantle to Harvey Keitel, who dominates this film with a powerful presence and a look of inexorable determination.
Before Keitel's Roy Egan makes an appearance, there are other members of an L.A. criminal team to meet, starting with his brother Lee Egan (convincingly played against type by a bearded, bristling Timothy Hutton), a hoodlum who steals cars as casually and as often as he changes shirts.
Hutton's main confederate is Jorge Montana (Wade Dominguez), convicted on a weapon's charge and about to be sentenced. Jorge is a family man with two small children and a wife (Famke Janssen, "GoldenEye's" Xenia Onatopp) who is, yes, tired of a husband who makes his living outside the law.
Apparently unaware of the movie odds against hard guys determined to take down one last big score, Egan and Montana plan a job in Palm Springs big enough to attract the attention of Lee's brother, Roy. The target is the West Coast distribution center for a Russian diamond cartel, where a robbery will have the added fillip of giving the Russkies "a crash course in free enterprise."
Every crime team needs a wheel man and this crew has Skip Kovich (Stephen Dorff, very different as Candy Darling in "I Shot Andy Warhol"). A flashy, amoral hothead--and that's on his calmer days--Skip is oversupplied with attitude and is clearly a person who never met a risk he didn't like.
As in all movie robberies, it doesn't matter how good the planning is or how quick and brutal the gang is on the job, the frailty of human nature is guaranteed to mess things up. Which is the signal for Roy Egan to become a veritable god of vengeance.
Operating on the savage theory that "I'm my own police," Egan proves to be undeterred by normal human emotions and as difficult to kill as the Whitewater controversy. Except for a scene of out-of-control emotion, possibly thrown in for old time's sake, Keitel's acting is as refreshingly spare and pared down as Al Pacino's is in "Donnie Brasco." If this turns out to be a trend, no one will be upset.
Veteran director Irvin, who has made everything from "The Dogs of War" to "Widow's Peak" in a 30-plus year career, has gotten involved in this story. "City of Industry" has a nice feeling of craft and tightly wound concision about it. And its attempt to showcase unusual L.A. locations, including a cheap motel tour of the city, is worthwhile even if some of the locales are as venerable as the abandoned oil refinery in Santa Fe Springs that was the location for James Cagney's last stand in "White Heat."
"City of Industry" has its share of weak areas, including plot points that won't stand up to heavy analysis and a tendency to dip too heavily into on-screen violence. But even if breaking new territory isn't one of its strengths, this film gives fans of grown-up Dead End Kids exactly what they bargained for.
City of Industry, 1997. R for violence, strong language and some sexuality. A Largo Entertainment production, released by Orion Pictures. Director John Irvin. Producers Evzen Kolar, Ken Solarz. Executive producer Barr Potter. Screenplay Ken Solarz. Cinematographer Thomas Burstyn. Editor Mark Conte. Costumes Eduardo Castro. Music Stephen Endelman. Production design Michael Novotny. Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes. Harvey Keitel as Roy Egan. Stephen Dorff as Skip Kovich. Famke Janssen as Rachel Montana. Timothy Hutton as Lee Egan. Wade Dominguez as Jorge Montana.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times