Urban Cinefile
"I get lots of roles the American stars don't want to do. American stars don't want to kill the baby. I'll kill the baby. I'll kill any baby for a good part."  -Terence Stamp
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Monday September 16, 2019 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Harry Collins (Ray Liotta) is a veteran Phoenix, Arizona police detective with as many vices as virtues. Still Harry lives by a strict- if idiosyncratic - moral code, which complicates things when his gambling debts start to spiral out of control. The situation goes from bad to worse when Harry hatches a scheme with fellow cops Mike Henshaw (Anthony LaPaglia), James Nutter (Daniel Baldwin) and Fred Shuster (Jeremy Piven) to rip off a strip club owner and sleazy loan shark to pay his bookies. Harry's last chance for redemption may be his relationship with tough-as-nails bar owner Lella (Angelica Huston) but even this is at risk as he goes after the one big score that might enable him to escape his sordid past.

"I really enjoyed this steamy, dark thriller that implodes with atmosphere and biting tension. The mood is taut and volatile, and there's plenty to engage us as we enter this dark world of unpredictability. The crooked cop formula may not be new, but Phoenix brings a new slant, with superb performances from Ray Liotta and Anthony LaPaglia. Liotta is haunting in this role – his dark good looks smoulder under the flawed nature of his character. The opening scene is one of the most striking I can remember, with a despairing Harry cheering on a team of desperate cockroaches, who race to survive. As compulsive gambler burns a blood-stained $100 bill, you can feel the desperation as surely as the paper that is crumpling. The characters are beautifully written, and while their flaws don't endear them to us, we are totally fascinated. My heart cries for the soulfulness of the Liotta/Huston onscreen relationship, and the debauched camaraderie of these crooked cops will long remain with you. Phoenix has a rich undercurrent of energy and its gritty, wailing soundtrack takes us into the depth of the culture. It may not have had a theatrical release, but Phoenix should do well on video – it is a terrific night's entertainment."
Louise Keller

"This edgy film is a notable addition to the corrupt cop thriller genre, with a better than average story and top performances – plus the satisfyingly complex, contradictory and slightly off-beat character of Harry (Ray Liotta – who also get a co-producer credit), the gambling cop with a streak of decency. The title is the setting: Phoenix, a city which shouldn’t even be there, according to one line. But it is, and it’s a tough town where bent cops don’t come any benter than Mike (Anthony LA Paglia). These two actors create the fulcrum for the film with three dimensional characters and plenty of attitude; they don’t come any stronger, either. Directed with a sure hand and a solid sense of what to make of the material, Danny Cannon uses a forward flash device to structure his story in a slightly non-linear fashion, but only enough to give us a good tease. The action and the tension are well balanced with the occasional slower paced scenes for character development, and the production design is terrific, as is Revell’s music. This is a film that knows the job it has to do, and does it with a turbo charger."
Andrew L. Urban

Email this article

Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0


CAST: Ray Liotta, Anthony La Paglia, Daniel Baldwin, Anjelica Huston, Jeremy Piven, Royce D. Applegate, Xander Berkeley,

DIRECTOR: Danny Cannon

PRODUCER: Tracie Graham-Rice, Victoria Nevinny

SCRIPT: Eddie Richey


EDITOR: Zach Staenberg

MUSIC: Graeme Revell


RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International


© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2019