Background: Danny Ciello (Treat Williams) has cooperated with a federal investigation into NYPD corruption, after being assured investigators wouldn’t go after his friends and fellow cops in the narcotics unit. He learns he made a deal with the devil as prosecutors use his information to coerce his friends, one by one, into making similar incriminating deals.
The clip opens with Ciello confronting Gus Levy (Jerry Orbach), the only cop who won’t cooperate with the feds, soon after Gus learns that Danny, with whom he was very close, is King Rat.
Sidney Lumet’s Prince of the City (1981) has its flaws — too long, sometimes too talky — but it’s a harrowing study of loyalty and betrayal that examines difficult moral questions. Is it OK to betray friends if you think there’s a higher good at stake? Is it OK if you think your friends will be protected from the consequences of your actions? If you betray your friends under any circumstances, do you not betray yourself? And so on.
Check out the second scene in the clip, in which Danny exalts over Gus’s refusal to be a rat. It’s as if Danny thinks Gus is the world’s last hope for decency.