Harvey Keitel hits the mean, mixed-race streets of London in The Young Americans, a high-octane, in-your-face cop thriller that’s got everything going for it except a well-rounded script. Director Danny Canon, 25, landed the movie on the strength of his 65-minute film school grad work, Strangers, shot in LA for $20,000 with aid from Propaganda Films.
Tone is set straightaway with a moody pre-credits sequence of mysterious young punks blowing away two mobsters outside the back-streets Temple nightclub. Enter NY-out-of-LA cop John Harris (Keitel), who’s been seconded from the DEA as an ‘adviser’ to London’s boys in blue on the current spate of London clubland killings.
Harris suspects the real villain is psychotic Yank drugster Frazer (Viggo Mortensen), whom he’s been trailing from the US and who is trying to move in on the London drug scene. Harris persuades a young bartender at the Temple, Chris (Craig Kelly), to help him.
Pic’s strength is its vivid sense of place and identity. Thanks to a reined-back perf, Keitel blends into rather than dominates the Brit ambience of gruff cops, multicolored youth and grungy, back-streets villainy. Where the pic’s reach exceeds its grasp is in the script department.