As the owner of legendary hotspots like Limelight, Tunnel, Palladium, and Club USA, Peter Gatien was the undisputed king of the 1980s New York City club scene. The eye-patch-sporting Ontario native built and oversaw a Manhattan empire that counted tens of thousands of patrons per night in its peak years, acting as a conduit for a culture that, for many, defined the image of an era in New York. Then years of legal battles and police pressure spearheaded by Mayor Giuliani's determined crackdown on nightlife in the mid-'90s led to Gatien's eventual deportation to Canada, and the shuttering of his glitzy kingdom. Featuring insider interviews with famous players in the club scene as well as key informants in Gatien's high-profile trial, Billy Corben's (Cocaine Cowboys) exuberant documentary aims to set the record straight about Gatien's life as it charts his rise and fall against the transformation of New York, offering a wild ride through a now-closed chapter in the history of the city's nightlife.
New York Times: “Limelight” delivers the messed-up goods.
New York Daily News: <3 stars> Director Billy Corben employs a lot of flash to recall the wild nights, and interviews with a jailed Michael Alig, NYC officials and others flesh out the flashbacks.
New York Magazine: <Critic's Pick> This documentary about the rise and fall of New York club entrepreneur Peter Gatien, from the drug-fueled heyday of the city’s nightlife boom to the hypervigilance of the Giuliani years and beyond, is full of enough double-crosses and shady dealings to fuel several crime epics.
Miami Herald: The partying is so intense, the atmosphere so wild, that the clips are sometimes frightening — visions of discotheques as one of the circles of hell from Dante’s Inferno.
Film Journal: Darkly fascinating documentary. It’s a sad, messy, fascinating tale, populated by an unusually motley cast of characters, many of whom could have stepped right out of Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas.
Time Out: A fascinating history, especially when Limelight touches on the club scene’s dark side
Tribeca Film: If the story of New York City in the modern era is a story of formerly edgy, artistic neighborhoods building up an eccentric culture and pedigree, only to have that culture and pedigree used as a selling point for the commodification of those neighborhoods, then Limelight is a very sharp portrait of how New York became the town that it is today.
FilmCritic: What begins as an expose on Caligula's den turns into a true-life Roman tragedy. Whether Gatien is wholly innocent is besides the point. Limelight lifts the entertaining veil of smoke and mirrors only to uncover an oligarchy turning the screws on an unknowing body politic. Apparently, we're all suckers.
Screen Comment: <4 stars> With his MTV-style, neon-light editing tricks, and a spate of long-forgotten news clips and little-seen club footage at his disposal, Corben plunges with electrifying zeal into the depravity, the chaos and, simultaneously, the loving open-mindedness of the Limelight crowd.
The Onion AV Club: As usual, Corben’s style is caffeinated and a little rough around the edges, but he’s a tenacious journalist, and his yen for sensationalism gives Limelight an irresistible tabloid pop. He supports his case well, drawing on interviews with informants and law-and-order types, and he makes a convincing argument for the vitality of a nightclub scene that was scrubbed out of existence. It’s like the end of Casino: Sin City converted into Disney World.
Toronto.com: The sense of strapping in for a wild ride amid exciting music and the non-stop party makes Limelight an entertaining spin around Manhattan by night.
Modern Tonic: Limelight, peppered with commentary from the likes of Moby, club promoters, DEA agents and the man himself, paints a vivid portrait of Gatien and his empire, celebrating the evolution of popular music, style, and nightlife culture in the Big Apple while exposing an underbelly of sex, drugs, murder and government corruption.
Pocket Fives - "Many twists and turns keep this a completely riveting film...if you liked The U and/or Cocaine Cowboys, and want to see some wonderful footage of a really unique time and place in NYC, then you will absolutely love this film."
The Film Stage - "Taking an exhilarating Goodfellas-esque approach on the fame, money, and lifestyle that came with opening the four biggest clubs in NYC, Corben introduces a set of real-life eclectic characters that could easily be found in Scorsese’s masterpiece."
Guest of a Guest - "It's a brilliant film, tracking the sociology of the city, questioning both drugs and government, and examining an ever- changing youth culture, with extensive accuracy and whimsical sensitivity."
The Advocate: Get a wicked contact high from Billy Corben’s fascinating documentary, which opens September 23 in limited release, about the rise and fall of nightlife king Peter Gatien, owner of legendary gay-inclusive Manhattan hot spots like Limelight, Tunnel, and Palladium — until Mayor Giuliani's mid-'90s drug crackdowns led to Gatien's deportation. The film includes interviews with famous club scene denizens and key informants in Gatien's trial.