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NEW YORK CHINATOWN is a throwaway crime picture from the early 80s whose inclusion on a DVD set is solely due to its obscurity. Far from being a hidden gem, it's a borderline-generic outing with only a handful of highlights. Consider buying only if you're a particular fan of the genre.
The story: A benevolent gangster (Alan Tang) is challenged for the supremacy of New York City's Chinatown by a rival boss (Yi Feng) and his treacherous subordinate (Melvin Wong).
The best thing that I can say about this movie is that it has plenty of weird things in it. Rambunctious teenagers terrorize a restaurateur with condiments. A gay gang parties by staging mock childbirth in an alley. Alan Tang punishes a cruel employer by dressing him in lingerie while he sleeps, and later is declared the noble winner of a political argument after he holds a gun to a student's head. If you're determined to watch the whole movie, it'll only be to see what other crazy nonsense the filmmakers came up with, because the actual meat of the story is very bland stuff. None of the characters are very interesting, and while completing the film was not as much of a drag as it could have been, the picture is without flair or any genuine surprises. When the movie finally does reach a moody highpoint within its final quarter, it's too little too late.
Actually, I amend my statement regarding surprises: I was surprised by what a substantial role costar Don Wilson has. Wilson, who would go on to become one of the biggest B-movie heroes of the western hemisphere, is billed as little more than an enforcer but ends up turning into a main villain the most active of the three. It's weird to hear a dubbed voice coming out of his mouth, but even in his acting debut, he seems pretty confident. He even supplies the movie's action highlight, which comes amidst a smidgen of sloppy fighting and a smattering of shootouts. Wilson the kickboxer only has one fight, against Cheung Kwok-Wah, and while it's muddled by a degree of choreographic stiffness, the ferocity of the brawling and the length of the shots automatically make it one of the best matches he's ever had.
Of course, it's not enough to save the movie, which reaches a zenith late in its runtime but otherwise leaves no impression. The fact that Wilson himself never seems to mention it and points to other movies as his acting debut may say a lot about the inconsistent quality of this one. If you're a completionist or really, really love cheap crime flicks, go for it, but otherwise forget about this one's existence.
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