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Prince of the City on 35mm
Institute of Contemporary Arts
A gruff white man grabs the tie of another man, who looks unfazed, over an argument?
Prince of the City, dir. Sidney Lumet, USA 1981, 160 min. English.

Over the course of his fifty-year career, Sidney Lumet was repeatedly drawn to the theme of police corruption, exploring it from multiple angles in films like Serpico (1973), Q&A (1990) and Night Falls on Manhattan (1996). His epic 1981 drama Prince of the City may be his most incisive and psychologically rich study of corruption, complicity and guilt. 

Based on the true story of NYPD detective Robert Leuci, who worked with federal prosecutors to expose dirty cops in the 1970s, Prince of the City stars the late Treat Williams as detective Daniel Ciello. A cocksure young officer in the NYPD’s Special Investigative Unit, Ciello begins informing under the misguided belief that he can steer the prosecutors away from himself and his partners, but as the investigation digs deeper and the indictments pile up, he finds himself facing a moral reckoning. There is no way of remaining untainted in this crooked morass.

Filmed at hundreds of real locations across all five boroughs of New York, Prince of the City is a sprawling and unsparing procedural exposing a rotten system. Lumet stated that he was motivated to make this film in part because Serpico offered a more straightforward and clean-cut hero narrative, whereas Lumet and Jay Presson Allen’s Oscar-nominated screenplay takes a more ambivalent view of this world. There are no easily definable good guys and bad guys, and no clear answers. 

Prince of the City displays Lumet’s unswerving commitment to realism and showcases an extraordinary ensemble of character actors, led by Treat Williams’ intense breakthrough performance. It’s also an essential portrayal of squalid New York, dauntingly photographed in a manner that earned praise from Akira Kurosawa, and has been noted as an influence on such current filmmakers as Todd Phillips, S Craig Zahler, Shaka King and Christopher Nolan. 

The Badlands Collective is proud to present this rare 35mm screening.

All films are ad-free and 18+ unless otherwise stated, and start with a 10 min. curated selection of trailers.

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