Year of the Dragon (1985)

by | Oct 11, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Year of the Dragon (1985)

Starring:  Mickey Rourke, John Lone, Ariane
Studio:  Warner Bros.
Video:  2.35:1 Widescreen Enhanced
Audio:  DD 5.1
Extras:  Theatrical Trailer, Director Commentary
Length:  134 minutes
Rating:  ***

New York’s Chinatown was once its own self-contained society of people
who lived with ancient cultural traditions in mind.  Now, a young
mobster upstart, Joey Tai, an alleged member of a Chinese
Triad—criminal gangs that have long existed in China—makes an attempt
to move outside of Chinatown and take over some of the territory in
Italian neighborhoods and become head of the organization.  By
using underlings he secretly and painstakingly begins to eliminate all
who stand in his way.  The only man who dares to oppose him is
Stanley White (played by Rourke).  He’s a former Vietnam vet and
is known for his hardcore tactics that helped him get the Bronx under
control.  As the new Captain of Police, he intends to make a huge
dent on the criminal factor in Chinatown.  But he has resistance
from all sides: his superiors, his wife and friends, and even the
Chinese community.  With the aid of a reporter he seeks to slowly
expose the Triads in America and bring law and order back to the
community, especially in Chinatown.

Michael Cimino is best known for his work on Deer Hunter.  At
first he turned down the project, but with much persuading, he agreed
to adapt the novel by Robert Daley called “Prince of the City” into
this film.  Due to time pressure from the studio, Cimino brought
in Oliver Stone to co-write the script.  The movie takes on many
difficult subjects including racism and portrays many Chinese Americans
in a negative light.  White’s character doesn’t mind slinging
around racial slurs from time to time, but his dialogue also includes
narratives on importance of the Chinese people in American
culture.  Whether this balances it out for the viewer will
depend.  One of the problems is the reporter played by Ariane, an
Asian model of the time.  Most of the film is dedicated to showing
the negative, criminal side of Chinese culture (with a concentration on
drugs and violence).  As a counter to this, Ariane, who plays
reporter Tracy Tzu, represents the “good” of this society. 

Unfortunately, in many ways she falls short of this title.  First,
she isn’t the best actress, but is clearly striking to look at (and the
director has no problems in showing her completely nude).  She is
shown to be a good investigative reporter, but in the end decides to
kill her story because her life/health is in danger.  White forces
her to have sex with him, to believe in him, to bend to his will. 
In effect, he uses her to get what he wants.  Her strength in many
scenes translates to her screaming at White.  When she raises
objections, she seldom gets her way.  White’s friends who the
viewer would think would support him, side with the status quo and
leave him to his own devices.  White himself is hardly an angel,
and doesn’t seem to have a problem actively pursuing Ariane for sex.

Although the production quality of the film is good, the somewhat
overly-stereotyped characters prevent this film from attaining a higher
rating and becoming a more meaningful piece of work.  Certain
elements of the film appear to be thrown in purely to offset others and
don’t lend themselves to a natural flow.  In many ways you will
see Oliver Stone influences that are reminiscent of the film Wall
Street, but are much more successful in that film.

-Brian Bloom

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