John Irvin may be better known for Hamburger Hill and Raw Deal, but in City of Industry, he moves several big-name actors through their paces circa 1997. In this tale of crime and revenge, the elder brother must go on the hunt for the getaway driver who gunned down his younger brother and their friend in a jewelry heist gone wrong.
Here, Harvey Keitel is our antihero as the elder Roy Egan, an accomplished criminal who agrees to young Lee’s (Timothy Hutton) plan to rob a jewelry store. With their friend, Jorge Montana (Wade Dominguez), and getaway driver Skip Kovich (Stephen Dorff), they steal millions of dollars of jewelry. But instead of splitting it evenly, Kovich’s girlfriend (Dana Barron, the original Audrey Griswold!), encourages him to take the bulk of the gains for himself. Kovich murders Jorge and Lee, but Keitel’s Roy escapes and a game of cat and mouse begins.
As Roy pursues Skip, he tracks down Montana’s wife, Rachel (Famke Janssen), and reluctantly, they begin to help each other, before Roy tracks Skip through the young exotic dancer, Cathi Rose (Lucy Liu). Meanwhile, Skip’s fear sends him to gunrunner Odell Williams (Michael Jai White) and bookie Harvey (Elliott Gould), generating more cannon fodder to ride between he and the oncoming Roy.
In a battle that burns slowly but seems inevitable, the two men show their true colors. Skip kills indiscriminately – even gunning down his own girlfriend, because he’s hellbent on proving his ‘name’ and making people fear him. On the other hand, Roy shows a tenderness to Rachel, as the wife of his dead accomplice, that she returns via a St. Christopher’s medal, that never dives into the murky waters of an ongoing relationship. She recognizes that he is a way out; he recognizes that she may be one of the few ‘good’ people in the story.
Ultimately, this 1990s slowburner feels more like the kind of film we saw frequently in the late ’70s and ’80s, the Charles Bronson-esque revenge thriller that takes us into a world of crime colored by the lens of family and loyalty. When we finally roll on the closing act that captures all the bloody, glory-less revenge, we see the humanity of Roy, intent on being his brother’s keeper, having fully failed, and finding only blood as the true means of penance.
We may not see ourselves in Roy’s life, or agree with his actions, but we understand his motivation in the end.
Special features on the Kino Lorber Blu-ray include an audio commentary by Steve Mitchell, King Cohen, and historian Nathaniel Thompson, as well as the original theatrical trailer.