Blu-ray Review: Fear City (1984)

101 Films’ very collectable Black Label has attached some salacious classics from dark alleys of cinema, with the latest and one of its most worthy titles, Fear City from mad-man director Abel Ferrara – released May 18th on a Limited-Edition Blu-ray.

Tom Berenger stars in this violent neo-noir as ex-boxer-turned-talent-manager, Matt Rossi, who finds himself at the crossroads of guilt and regret when a nameless psycho starts killing and brutally maiming his girls.

For a movie that burns the midnight oil, the oil likely being cocaine, the output is unfortunately basic. Fear City teeters on the edge of becoming interesting but doesn’t seem to know what to do or what direction to go in, much like our protagonist.

Stylish and well shot, capturing the sights and screams of New York City’s seedy nightlife, it’s an almost perfect visual representation of what 1984 looked like in a purely adult sense, yet the plot cannot escape the blinding glow of neon red. As we bear witness to Matt’s pool of strippers being attacked one by one, which is disturbing to say the least, the terrifying reality these women face is undercut by the narrative primarily focusing on Matt. If more of the story were from a female perspective, the name Fear City would have carried more weight, especially given their line of work in an industry dominated by men, often outside the law.

I don’t fault Tom Berenger’s performance, although it’s rather limited as he mostly laments over his ex-girlfriend, Loretta (Melanie Griffith) and wallows in self-pity over having killed a guy in the ring during his fighting days. His loyalty to his organized crime pals creates a volatile relationship with the police. Matt’s a frustrating character, but his ludicrous confrontation with the killer is entertaining. Speaking of the assailant, there’s little analysis as motive seems absent. He only seems to personify two popular fads of the 80s, Asian culture and bodybuilding. Supporting player, Billy Dee Willaims, is sadly underutilized, with only enough screen time to justify his picture on the film’s poster.


  • Uncut version of Fear City (97 Minutes)
  • Commentary with film critic Kevin Lyons
  • Extended trailer
  • Limited edition booklet: Includes ‘Seeing Red: A Neo-Noir Guide’ by Rich Johnson and ‘Returning To Fear City’ by Brad Stevens

Kevin Lyons’ commentary is a fairly unbiased examination of Fear City, talking mainly about Ferrara’s style and the film’s mainstream quality, relative to the director’s more independent work. Lyons also goes into details regarding the careers of those who worked behind and in front of the camera which offers quite a fair bit of trivia to viewers.

The uncut version doesn’t add anything of value other than a few more ounces of sleaze and violence; plus, the extra bits are SD inserts, so it’s far from the most seamless. Oddly though, the aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is correct, as opposed to the theatrical cut, which is slightly stretched horizontally.


Having previously watched an earlier Blu-ray release from a local label, this transfer sourced by 101 is substantially better, with deeper blacks and a high level of contrast that helps to enhance the grittiness of the film in additional to bringing out details and texture. There’s a jamming 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track that throws out some volume, particularly dialogue.

I find Abel Ferrara’s work to be an acquired taste, but Fear City is very digestible despite its flaws, and while it does lack substance, it’s one of those movies that can change the atmosphere of the room when you have it playing. There’s a real palpable quality that Ferrara, more often than not, manages to to excel at. 101’s high-definition treatment and physical presentation is very attractive, which as expected, has caught the eye of many collectors and fans alike.

(1984, director: Abel Ferrara)



direct blu-ray screen captures



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