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Film / Fear City

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Fear City is a 1984 thriller by Abel Ferrara (King of New York), starring Tom Berenger and Billy Dee Williams.

New York City is struck by a Jack the Ripper-copycat who preys on strippers. Matt Rossi (Berenger) and his best friend Nicky Parzeno (Jack Scalia) run the largest business supplying women to the clubs, but see their line of work threatened when the killer starts targeting their employees. Meanwhile the pair are badgered by a zealous cop (Williams) who feels they're not doing enough to protect the girls, and Rossi is worried that his former girlfriend, the popular Loretta (Melanie Griffith), might be the next target.


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This film provides examples of:

  • Casualty in the Ring: The main character Matt Rossi is still haunted by his accidental killing of an opponent in the ring, which led him to quit his career as a boxer.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: The killer targets strippers in an apparent take-off on Jack the Ripper, who targeted prostitutes.
  • The Don: Rossi visits his old employer in the Italian district for advice on how to deal with the elusive killer who is carving up his strippers.
  • Flat Character: The killer. Not only is he a Silent Antagonist, nothing is revealed about his background. If not for a single scene where he monologues about seeing himself as The Scourge of God, we wouldn't even know his motive.
  • Fingore: The killer cuts off the fingers of his first victim with a pair of scissors.
  • Harmful to Minors: Rossi witnessed a Mafia assassination back in his old neighborhood when he was a little boy.
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  • Mistaken for Murderer: Nicky mistakenly pegs a strip club patron as the knife-wielding killer because he happened to be carrying a personal razor blade inside his jacket, but only finds this out after they've already beaten the guy up. This comes back to bite them in the ass when Detective Wheeler arrests them for assault and battery.
  • My Greatest Failure: Rossi is still reeling over the accidental death of one of his opponents when he was a boxer.
  • Serial Killer: The one in this film is a martial arts expert who mainly goes after strippers, toying with his prey before killing them. He apparently sees it as part of a mission to purify the world of sinners.
  • Sleeping with the Boss: Nicky is in a relationship with one of his strippers, but it's apparently a loving one. She also says to him that she doesn't expect any special favors because of the way it will make her look to the other girls.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Detective Wheeler is a legitimate good guy who wants to catch the killer as badly as Rossi does, he's just at odds with the adult club owners because he's a stickler for the law. By the end, Wheeler does gain a bit of respect for Rossi and lets him go after he single-handedly defeats the killer.
  • Title Drop: Provided textually; it turns out to be the name of a book the killer is writing to detail his murders.
  • Your Mom: When Detective Wheeler interrogates Rossi, Rossi insults him by calling the police officer's mother a whore. He gets decked in the face for this.


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