Year of the Dragon
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Year of the Dragon (DVD)
A tough cop barely coping with unresolved psychological trauma from theViet Nam War . . . A ruthless drug lord who grew up in the alleys ofHong Kong . . . And a beautiful television reporter caught between theher life in Manhattan and the Chinese culture she left behind. All threewill be bound together by a lethal struggle as the police battle thecrime of New York's Chinatown in The Year of the Dragon. Academy Awardwinner Michael Cimino (The Deer Hunter) directs this raw, stylishthriller from a screenplay co-written with Academy Award winner OliverStone (Born on the Fourth of July, Platoon). Viet Nam War veteranStanley White (Mickey Rourke--Diner, Body Heat) is the most decoratedcop in the history of the New York Police Department. But when Whiteinfiltrates New York's Chinatown to fight its violent street gangs, hediscovers the gangs are but one arm of a violent criminal empire headedby Joey Tai.]]>
Redemption for director Michael Cimino and burgeoning stardom for actor Mickey Rourke were on the agenda when Year of the Dragon was released in 1985, and even if those things didn't quite come to pass, the result was nevertheless an entertaining, at times even compelling film. Cimino, seven years removed from his Oscar triumph The Deer Hunter and five years past the debacle that was (and still is) Heaven's Gate, made a move back into the mainstream with this violent tale about New York's Chinatown, where gangs and heroin-dealing Chinese "triads" hold sway--at least until police captain Stanley White comes on the scene, fiercely determined to put the bad guys out of business. As portrayed by Rourke, White is arrogant, boorish, and bullheaded, a thoughtless jerk who puts anyone who cares about him in mortal danger, all of which we're supposed to forgive because he served in Vietnam and is so righteously intent on doing his job. Problem is, White is almost completely unlikable, rendering his relationships with his long-suffering wife (Caroline Kava) and his TV reporter girlfriend (a wooden Ariane) implausible in the extreme. Add to that a script (by Cimino and Oliver Stone) filled with stilted, macho dialogue and a level of facile racism and sexism that would be unacceptable by new millennium standards, and you've got a tough sell. Still, Cimino knows how to direct the action sequences, and he's able to sustain a good level of tension as the story builds toward its inevitable confrontation between White and young crime lord Joey Tai (John Lone, channeling Al Pacino in The Godfather: Part II). And the aftermath? Cimino made only four movies in the ensuing twenty years, none of them exactly blockbusters, while Rourke sank into a self-inflicted oblivion from which he has yet to recover. Not exactly the hoped-for outcome, but neither of them should be ashamed to have Year of the Dragon on his resume. --Sam Graham
- Theatrical trailer
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The plot is pretty basic. A wildcard captain gets transferred to Chinatown, where a war over the heroin trade and protection rackets has boiled over into the streets, and has led to a blood feud between the Chinese triads and the Italians, as well as internecine scuffles among the Chinese. Mickey Rourke's performance is alternately muted and over-the-top, but never boring. The movie is at its best during the action sequences (one of which involving a man versus a train is famously considered to be one of the best staged in movie history), and the sexual tension evoked between the cop and the Chinese-American female reporter is also well-handled and believable.
The movie is definitely pleasing in visual terms, with rain-slicked, neon-soaked streets and sets so believable that they reportedly fooled Bronx native Stanley Kubrick, who was in attendance at the film's premier. "Year of the Dragon" hits pretty much all of the cop cliches fans of the sub-genre have come to expect, but there are some genuinely thrilling moments, and those who are generally fans of Mickey Rourke need to buy or rent this ASAP.
A good movie, with some great scenes, and its treatment of racial tension will alternately offend or fascinate, based on the viewer's own tolerance for political incorrectness.
First, we have a heroic archetype in Stanley White (Rourke) who is tough, sarcastic, witty, honest, arrogant and is one of the few redeemable characters in the film. White's supposed "racism" and "sexism" is clearly meant to be part humor, part attack on the PC driven staff members of his Police department that turn the other cheek while blood flows in Chinatown. In his own way, Rourke's character shows the most respect to the Chinese (and Triad members) in this film by treating them as equals. Whether he "uses" them, as another reviewer stated is quite questionable. White is a believer in the American dream, and American justice - which he wants all to share in. And while he does not seem to be concerned as much with the old Triad members that are rational, calm and stay hidden, he does have a serious issue with the new generation that don't seem to respect anything, least of all the laws of the United States.
White's wife is clearly not bringing him pleasure any longer, and he engages in an affair with a young Asian reporter. Their relationship, at least to me, seems very believable. White seems to drag both this reporter and a young Chinese detective kicking and screaming (as well as some Nuns) to "do the right thing". Whether they live or die because of this is irrelevant. White is the archetype of the Lone Wolf, the single individualist standing up against corruption and evil. The fact that he does it with a punch, a smile and a knowledge of fine Chinese cuisine (well sort of) makes it even better. In fact, the sense I had from watching this film was that White loves being the outsider, and the respect of the Chinese in Chinatown seemed to mean a lot more to him than that of his own "culture". (in truth all of these cultures are "true" American)
The music, direction and acting of all involved here are great. And the unabashed way that the subject matter is dealt with makes one still believe in everything that once made America great and still sometimes does - individualism, heroism and great Chinese culture!
Of course, most modern men and women would only scream for Stanley White when some building blows up or a man with a gun is standing in their bank. What that tells you about White, America and today's culture is something to reflect on. We all needs heroes. We may want to make it possible for them to exist once in a while.