Recently I discovered a film called City of Industry (1997) directed by John Irvin whose credits include The Dogs of War (1981), Raw Deal (1986) and Hamburger Hill (1987). At first I wasn’t sure what the movie was about, from the title I thought it might be a story about factory workers or something to that effect. When I found out it was in fact a crime film (or to be more precise a heist film) I was very happy because that is one of my favorite genres.
Timothy Hutton, who I have been a fan of for years from films like TAPS, Turk 182, The Falcon and The Snowman plays Lee a shady career criminal. He is fired up because he’s planning a diamond heist with his older brother Roy (Harvey Keitel) a retired thief along with his trusted friends Jorge (Wade Dominguez) and Skip (Stephen Dorff) the getaway driver. These guys seem to have everything planned out perfectly right down to electronically hacking the traffic lights surrounding the area they will be in. Jorge is the most grounded of the crew as he has to leave his faithful wife Rachel (Famke Janssen) and their young children which causes some grief as she knows he’s up to something unsavory. It’s obvious that Skip is the wild card of the group, he seems to be fearless or rather crazy when he is introduced blasting music in his car oblivious about the being on time meeting the others. Before arriving, he has a contact that helps him acquire some stolen guns from some gangsters for the robbery. It’s here we get to see his personality which is of the loose cannon variety. The heist goes according to plan and the friends make a good escape (one of the most thrilling sequences in the film) but when a shocking betrayal occurs out of nowhere, it leaves only two of them alive. One goes on the run with the diamonds and the other wants revenge and the goods back.
What I found most appealing in this film was the way it changes from your standard “gang of robbers” story we’ve seen many times into a revenge thriller. Harvey Keitel had made the cult classic heist film Reservoir Dogs (1992) only a few years before and he brought that same veteran criminal quality with him for this role. The actor I was really impressed with was Stephen Dorff. I’ve seen him play bad guys before in films like Blade, but he is such a realistic psychotic bastard as Skip and totally held his own giving a real sense of dread from his ruthless actions.
City of Industry is a solid L.A. neo-noir that does have some minor flaws. It loses a bit of momentum in certain spots as a variety of characters are introduced and the story meanders, but still, the overall quality remains strong and carries it to the end with integrity.