Year of the Dragon [VHS]

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

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About Dragon Mystic

I fell in love with dragons when I read Tea With the Black Dragon, and never looked back. Not the clunky winged Medieval dragons that ate cows, the graceful Asian dragons that could fly without wings. Later I discovered the elegant Welsh dragons, red and white, as described by R.J. Stewart in his books on the historical Merlin.
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3 Responses to Year of the Dragon [VHS]

  1. Brendan Klein says:

    Great Companion piece to the Corruptor. For the longest time I didn’t know what this film was called. I would catch it late night on cable like twenty times and finally found it on vhs.

  2. JLind555 says:

    The Chinatown you won’t see from the tour bus “Year of the Dragon” takes us into a world most of us never knew existed, let alone have seen: the seamy underbelly of New York City’s Chinatown, a world unknown to the outsiders who visit the trendy restaurants and tourist traps. It’s the story of the Asian heroin trade controlled by the Chinese triads; the young Chinese drug lord who will stop at nothing to take it over, and the police captain who will stop at nothing to destroy him. As Captain Stanley White, Mickey Rourke gives the performance of his career; he doesn’t just act Stanley White, he is Stanley White. And Stanley White, as Rourke portrays him, is a straight-up jerk. This guy is about as subtle as a runaway steamroller. He’s totally self-centered, treats his wife like part of the furniture, and barges into his Chinese girlfriend’s home and takes it over is if he owned it. And John Lone is remarkable as Joey Tai, the young drug lord who cynically arranges for the murder of his own father-in-law and then tells the members of the triad that it’s time for a new and younger leadership. The battle lines are drawn; Tai and White are going to upset the uneasy truce that has existed between the Chinatown police precinct and the triads and are going head to head. The results are calamitous. White doesn’t care who gets into harm’s way in his zeal to do Tai and the triad in, and Tai ignites the wrath of his elders in the triad when he forgets the ancient Chinese philosphy that recommends moderation in everything and goes for broke, bringing down the unwanted attention of the NYPD and the press into the triad’s activities. Tai finally goes too far in directly attacking White’s family and girlfriend, and all hell breaks loose. We know how the movie is going to end, and it gets there eventually, but not before the blood and gore is splattered all over the screen.

  3. D Dunleavy "D Dunleavy" says:

    One of Mickey Rourke’s best performances This is one of my favorite movies. John Lone is so good, I think he steals the show. Rourke and Lone carry this movie, and the actress who plays Rourkes wife is terrific too. I might be bias here, because I relate to Rourke’s character so much; A cop caught between his private ideals and the political groups and beauracracy. The movie shows how compromise and expediancy work to extend the life of the evil they are trying to destroy.

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