Tim Kincaid is a lot of things. A good director is not one of them. After gaining notoriety for the gay porn movies he directed in the 70's (no, I have not seen any of them), he went on to direct some of the absolute worst in 80's horror, science fiction and exploitation-"Breeders", "The Occultist", "Robot Holocaust" and "Bad Girls Dormitory" were among his movies outside of the world of pornography. With all that out of the way, "Riot on 42nd St." is of minor note, because it is a peon to the times in which cheap sex, violence, drugs and exploitation movies ruled that part of New York, and was one of the last of the dying breed of Grindhouse movies. That's not to say that it's any good.
Glenn Barnes (John Hayden) is a tough as nails ex-con who is paroled from prison, and wants to start a riot on 42nd street. There's a bit of a problem in rival club owner Farrell (Michael Spiro), who will do anything he can to keep Glenn from reaching his dreams. After Farrell's ferocious flunkies kill everyone off in the club's opening night, Glenn decides to go out for vengeance-even if that means going back to his old, violent ways. Also, Jeff Fahey shows up for some reason. While him showing up in a bad exploitation or genre movie wouldn't be out of the ordinary today, at the time he was something of a rising star, so it's a bit odd to see him here.
On paper, "Riot on 42nd Street" looks like it should be a lot of fun. It's got plenty of female nudity, some nasty violence and gore (the highlight involves a decapitation and said head ending up in the garbage), and it's clear that Kincaid has his heart in the right place. At the end of the day however, the whole thing is just bad. Granted, a lot of old exploitation movies are bad, but they still manage to be entertaining.
However, the problem is that Kincaid is a bad director and writer. The story makes little if any sense, and is full of continuity errors and lapses in the most basic logic, not to mention the poor cinematography, awful acting, awful music, and lack of any real edge. Sure, it's sleazy and gory, but in this case, nostalgia for the old days of trash cinema can only get you so far, especially when your movie doesn't have much in the way of story, characterization or motivation. Besides, the movies it wants to be like had good to decent directing. This feels like it's being directed on autopilot.
To say that this is Kincaid's crowning achievement isn't saying very much. If you are going to see one urban exploitation revenge saga-Then for crying out loud, go watch "Vigilante" or "Savage Streets" or "The Exterminator."