When you use that title structure, you’re kind of making a promise to your audience, whether they’re conscious of it or not.

The obvious allusion is to 1972’s The King of Marvin Gardens, Bob Rafelson’s downbeat but mordantly funny Atlantic City drama which saw Jack Nicholson and Bruce Dern star as two chalk and cheese brothers trying to make their fortune in the gambling mecca.

Then there’s 1984’s The Pope of Greenwich Village, where cousins Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts try and carve out their own piece of the titular New York City neighborhood.

Both films are character studies with perfunctory plots but an astute eye for telling detail, local color, and emotional truth, which can be in short supply in mainstream modern cinema. Still, there’s that title structure, the [noun] of [place], which speaks to something, makes that promise: we’re going to hang out with people who, even if we don’t recognize them specifically, are recognizable. We’ll come to understand their foibles, their failings, their hopes and dreams, and struggles. Does The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-96) keep that promise, I wonder? That might be beyond the scope of this bit of business, but The King of Staten Island does.

Read more at Mr Movie’s Film Blog.

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