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Case Number 23228: Small Claims Court

Buy Limelight at Amazon


Magnolia Pictures // 2011 // 102 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // January 30th, 2012

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All Rise...

Judge Roman Martel wonders if the Limelight prevents scurvy.

Editor's Note

Our review of Limelight (1952) (Blu-ray) Criterion Collection, published May 15th, 2015, is also available.

The Charge

The rise and fall of New York's greatest nightclub empire.

The Case

It's easy enough to say Peter Gatien was the owner of four nightclubs in New York City. But it's more accurate to say he owned four of the largest and most popular clubs in The Big Apple during the height of the clubbing era. Locales like The Limelight, The Tunnel, and The Palladium created club culture in the US and helped bring popularity to techno music in the late '80s.

These clubs were also hotbeds for all kinds of drug related activity. When Rudy Giuliani became mayor of New York in 1994 his attack on crime ended up affecting the nightclubs. It didn't take long for the DEA to bring in undercover agents and ferret out informants willing to say Peter Gatien was not only profiting from the drug trade in his clubs but also masterminding the entire operation. Gatien maintained he was only concerned with running successful nightclubs and the traffic of drugs was out of his direct control.

Limelight is the story of Gatien founding his clubs and the world they created and thrived on. At the same time, it shows a view of New York and Federal law enforcement, as they attempt to address club culture and the rise of drugs like Ecstasy. The film includes an amazing cast of characters. There's Gatien himself, a business man to the core, but sporting an eye patch after an accident damaged his left eye. You've got the infamous "Lord Michael," the man who claims to be responsible for bringing techno music and Ecstasy from Europe to the US. Even famous electronic musician Moby has some tales to tell.

The end result is a documentary that paints a vivid picture of the highs and lows of New York's club culture and the attempt by law enforcement to deal with it. Limelight sides with Gatien, uses convincing arguments to show how weak the case against him was, and how determined the forces behind the case were to make anything stick—just so they could say they took down the man with the eye patch.

Don't get me wrong, Limelight does not endorse drug use and all the dangers associated with it. In fact, it describes some tragic events that occurred around these clubs because of drug trafficking. But the idea that Gatien profited from this trade—much less was some kind of criminal mastermind—comes across as ludicrous.

Director Billy Corben uses a vast array of techniques in this tale. There's plenty of interviews with various folks involved on both sides of the coin. Obviously Gatien gets the majority of the screen time (especially since his daughter was a producer), but we get to hear from former mayor Ed Koch as well as Moby and a whole host of suspected and convicted criminals involved with the case. Corben also uses a host of archival news reports and pictures, not to mention court transcripts and video footage taken inside the clubs when the parties got really wild. Corben takes all these elements and edits them into a fast paced story that is both entertaining and informative.

Limelight gets a solid release from Magnolia Entertainment. The use of archival footage gives you a variance of visual quality, but overall it's an excellent 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The Dolby 5.1 audio mix is handled well, its varied soundtrack never overpowering the storytellers. As extras, we get five deleted scenes (ranging 1-6 minutes in length) each adding a few more great character moments to this already sordid saga.

I knew very little about New York's club scene and found Limelight a fascinating and absorbing watch. Anyone interested in the subject should definitely check this out. You won't need any additional substances to find it engrossing.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 89

Perp Profile

Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Spanish
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary

Distinguishing Marks

• Deleted Scenes


• IMDb
• Official Site

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