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Using unprecedented degrees of violence, young Joey Tai becomes the head of Chinese mafia in New York and undisputed leader of the Chinese community. Stanley White, the most decorated cop in New York and a Vietnam veteran, is put in charge of Chinatown. Both men are prone to breaking long-established rules and both men are unlikely to make compromises with each other, which leads to unavoidable and bloody conflict. Written by
Dragan Antulov <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In his audio commentary, Cimino says, "The studio loved the movie. In fact, they begged the producer to make it their Christmas movie. And they were right, because they needed time to educate the audience on the subject. Like when Lawrence of Arabia (1962) was made, nobody in the heartland knew who Lawrence was. But they were educated by the studios so they'd be interested when the movie came out. While our movie was a big hit abroad, and it was very popular in New York and LA, it was a bit soft in the middle of the country. That's what the studio kept saying, 'we need time to work that,' and of course the producers were in such a hurry to make their money back that they shot themselves in the foot." See more »
After Connie is killed in the bathroom and Kearney and Lou enter Stanley's house to serve him papers, we see the outline of Connie's body with fresh blood on the bathroom floor. Blood turns a darker/brownish color after it is exposed to air, especially the time it took after Connie's murder and the beginning of this scene. See more »
Captain McKenna, any leads in the murder of Jackie Wong?
Nothing at this time.
Do you think this killing means there's some kind of war going on in the Chinatown Tongs?
No, I don't. This is basically a situation where the youth gangs are lashing out at the establishment. The community is cooperating. The situation's under control.
See more »
The end credits roll over a squeezed image of the Chinese woman restaurant-singer crooning a Chinese easy-listening ditty. See more »
Following the Heaven's Gate debacle it must have been questionable if Michael Cimino would ever helm another epic film. Having shot The Deer Hunter and Heaven's Gate on such a grand scale, you expect that type of film from Cimino. Well, he was given one last shot to work the big screen using his considerable talents to create one last masterpiece. If there is a Michael Cimino trilogy it's his three epics The Deer Hunter, Heaven's Gate, and Year of the Dragon. In all honesty Hollywood does not make a lot of films like these so when they come along they are something special. These are films that show Hollywood at it's best, stretching, pushing the limits, and trying to create something huge fueled by a clear artistic vision. It may fall flat, as Heaven's Gate did, but the risk can be exhilarating. Looking back on Heaven's Gate now, many critics find it to be one hell of a film. There's a simple reason for that, they just don't make 'em like this much any more. So, in retrospect the Hurculean effort now looks refreshing.
Year of the Dragon is a powerhouse film. Where Heaven's Gate meandered on the plains, Year of the Dragon charges across the screen. I believe this was powered by Cimino probably giving his best effort to entertain as well as create on a grand scale. The result is a breathtaking ride and one of the best cop films we'll ever witness. Rourke as Stanley White is in his prime 80's form. There was no doubt about it, in the 80's the camera loved Mickey Rourke. If he had not gone off track it makes you wonder what could have been. His is not the only great performance in the film. John Lone as his prey is nothing short of magnificent. He is everything Al Pacino was in the Godfather films. I would say his performance owes a debt to Pacino and watching the film I wondered if he had used him as a model for Joey Tai. These three elements alone could be enough to make great film, two great actors dueling on screen and a director giving his best effort.
It doesn't stop there though. They are working from an Oliver Stone script which is beautifully composed to blur the lines between good and evil. It's not as simple as good guy and bad guy. These characters are fully fleshed out and complex. White may be the cop but he is deeply flawed as a human being. This script doesn't pander to the audience and you will not like Stanley White much of the time. Joey Tai is not pure evil. He follows a moral code and is an honorable man. This kind of writing is not for everyone and some may be put off or confused by the nature of these characters but that's what makes for great cinema.
Not only are the leads good but the supporting cast is also fantastic. Kava as Connie White brings nice weight to her performance as Stanley's wife. Raymond Barry and Victor Wong are excellent as are the entire supporting cast. There is one often noted exception. Ariane as Tracy Tzu the reporter and White's fling is very wooden. What causes her to stand out is the fact that all the other actors are so good. I believe this was her first film and she is out of her element. She just doesn't have the chops to keep up. Her performance doesn't drag down the film but it does stick out whenever she's on screen.
1985 saw a couple of fantastic cop films in this and To Live and Die in LA, which not surprisingly was directed by another great William Friedkin. Films like these are hard to come by. We were lucky to see Friedkin's film released as a special edition DVD. Year of the Dragon has been sold by MGM to Warner Brothers and now sits in limbo. It would be unfortunate for films like this and Sidney Lumet's Prince of the City (1981) to sit and rot on some shelf. The work of directors like Cimino, Friedkin, and Lumet should not be ignored. It's interesting that each of them made a fantastic film about cops in the 80's. Two of the three films though appear to be lost. Let's hope someone rescues them to DVD.
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