City of Industry 1997 Movie Scene Harvey Keitel as Roy Egan cleaning his gun while Famke Janssen as Rachel is watching him

City of Industry [1997]

It’s funny how our brains work. I’ve watched this movie probably once or twice back in the nineties. And then I forgot all about it. However, after seeing its title recently, it all started coming back to me. What I remembered the most was the atmosphere. It was ruthless, cold, and emotionless emphasizing all the best aspects of the movie. Thinking that there must be a reason why I still remember this movie after all this time, I played it last night. And I wasn’t disappointed. City of Industry is a highly underrated and gritty neo-noir crime tale bolstered by strong performances.

It’s about a group of criminals who decide to rob a jewelry store. And just like in real life, things start to go bad pretty soon. This is not fucking Oceans Eleven, this is City of Industry. Did you know that that’s a real city in California? A strange place that lives up to its name as it consists of over 3,000 businesses employing 67,000 people. With only 264 residents this is the third least populous city in the state. The story in this movie will, however, take us first to sunny Palm Springs and then back to the city of dreams, Los Angeles. A place where everybody is working on some sort of scheme. And the characters we’re going to meet are no different.

Almost all of them are career criminals, which makes it a bit difficult to root for them. So, you’re put in this position of a neutral observer, without the need to make any moral judgments. The character development is excellent, much better than the main story which features a couple of plot holes. Luckily, incredibly strong performances by our dependable crew covered that up nicely. Wade Dominguez and Timothy Hutton were great along with Famke Janssen who would go on to star in the next James Bond movie. Another future star also makes an appearance here. Lucy Liu plays the stripper appearing nude for the first and to this date last time in her film career. We also have young Stephen Dorff, a classic nineties bad guy.

However, all of them simply disappear before the monstrosity that is Mr. Harvey Keitel. The man has a screen presence of a black hole, sucking everything visible and invisible into him. He was born to play the role of a tough guy. A tough guy who’s either a straight-up criminal or a corrupt cop. Something everybody figured out when they saw him in Abel Ferrara’s classic Bad Lieutenant. Just pay attention to the scene when he walks into the Chinese laundromat. The way he moves around and looks. And compare that to a possible real situation. He’s truly one hell of an actor. And yes, City of Industry is another one of the nineties movies featuring the Chinese mafia also known as Triad.

But don’t worry, as soon as Harvey strips down to his white sleeveless shirt AKA wife beater, and lights up a cigarette, they’ll be running for the hills. It’s interesting that this was originally a “big mainstream thriller” starring Kevin Costner. The budget was around cool $30 million before Kevin pulled out, slashing it to just $8 million. His replacement made this movie into one of the most underrated neo-noir thrillers of the nineties. City of Industry is a lean and mean movie. The pacing is fast and the running time is short (90 minutes). As any self-respecting neo-noir thriller should, it also features a decent amount of twists and turns.

On the other hand, we have a supposedly experienced crew of thieves doing a job without any gloves or masks. And yet, you’ll hardly notice this or any of the other flaws because of the above-mentioned performances and stellar direction from John Irvin. This is not just a neo-noir heist movie but also a revenge movie as well. Finally, if you’re looking for movies like City of Industry, do check out Phoenix and To Live and Die in L.A. Both of these movies feature the same distinctively dark atmosphere. And I also simply have to mention Cop Land, also starring Harvey Keitel. 

Director: John Irvin

Writer: Ken Solarz

Cast: Harvey Keitel, Stephen Dorff, Timothy Hutton, Famke Janssen, Wade Dominguez, Michael Jai White

Fun Facts: City of Industry is a movie that was filmed in and around Los Angeles metro area, nowhere near the actual City of Industry.


IMDb Link:

YouTube player