China Girl (1987) Poster

(1987)

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Abel Ferrara's most conventional and commercial movie. A solid drama about inter-racial romance, cultural differences and gang rivalry.
Infofreak1 January 2003
'China Girl' is easily Abel Ferrara's most conventional and commercial movie to date. Thankfully it improves on his previous movie 'Fear City', which was too compromised and "Hollywood" to succeed. The story is a basic updating of Romeo And Juliet set against the background of Chinese and Italian gang rivalry. Newcomers Richard Panebianco and Sari Chang play Tony and Tye the ill fated lovers who continue their forbidden romance against pressure from their family and friends. Neither actor has went on to all that much but they are both more than adequate and make a sweet couple. The real action comes from solid performances by James Russo ('Donnie Brasco'), David Caruso ('Kiss Of Death'), Russell Wong ('The Prophecy 2'), Paul Hipp ('Teenage Caveman') and Joey Chin ('Year Of The Dragon'), many of whom went on to work with Ferrara on later projects. It was also good to see Judith Malina ('Dog Day Afternoon') and veteran character actor James Hong ('Big Trouble in Little China') in supporting roles. While by no means as flamboyant and confrontational as Ferrara's best known work, this is a surprisingly entertaining story which should appeal to a much wider audience than his "difficult" but rewarding movies such as the stunning 'Bad Lieutenant' or the fascinating 'The Addiction'. This movie doesn't deserve its obscurity and is well worth a rental.
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8/10
Good, updated version of Romeo and Juliet
valeriempeterson30 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
"China Girl" is a good, updated version of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." The film, which centers on the forbidden romance between Italian-American Tony (Tony Panebianco) and Chinese-American Tye (Sari Chang), is not great, but brings this ancient story of "star-cross'd lovers" to new generations. Shakespeare's language is beautiful, but in this day of short attention spans among our young people he can come across as old and stodgy. Showing this film (along with "Brooklyn Babylon," "West Side Story," "Rocky Road," "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet," "Pretty in Pink," "Romeo Must Die!" and of course, the 1968 classic adaptation, "Romeo and Juliet" by Franco Zeferrelli) can introduce young people to Shakespeare in school, since "Romeo and Juliet" is one of his most famous stories. Young people can realize how timeless Shakespeare's story is, and how it can apply to today's world.

The movie: Tony and Tye meet at a nightclub and fall in love, despite the fact that their ethnic factions are fighting against each other for turf through gang warfare. I agree with previous reviews that the supporting actors are much better than the leads, even though Panebianco and Chang are attractive and impressive in their first roles. The movie is action-packed, containing several fight scenes and one particular scene of graphic violence at the end. There is also a lot of profanity, so viewers should be forewarned. I felt it was strange, however, that for a movie with a supposedly passionate love story, the sex scene was pretty disappointing and actually unsexy! Despite these caveats, though, I think "China Girl" is a good movie and I wish it had done better at the box office. Maybe some cable movie channel can show this film back-to-back with other "Romeo and Juliet"-inspired films for one day, so viewers can see the similarities and differences among the various films. Now that's something that I would like to see! I give this movie an 8 out of 10.
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7/10
West Side Story updated to 1987
preppy-323 January 2003
Chinese gangs vs. Italian gangs in NYC in 1987. Tony (Richard Panebianco) and Tye (Sari Chang) meet and fall in love. Meanwhile Tye's brother hates all Italians and Tony's friends hate Chinese.

If you've seen "West Side Story" you know how this ends--but a bit more tragically in this movie. Plotwise it's very obvious but it's beautifully done. Filmed with energy, beautifully atmospheric (the sets and lighting are incredible), and full of bursts of ultraviolence. Most of the roles are well acted, especially by James Russo, David Caruso (chewing the scenery) and Russell Wong. As the young lovers Panebianco and Chang are, unfortunately, not that good. In a way it's understandable--he was only 16 when this was made and it's the first role for both. They're both very attractive (Panebianco is pretty buff with a baby face; Chang is delicate and beautiful) but have little to do other than kiss and act like they love each other. That isn't believable either since they have zero sexual chemistry. Still, they are sympathetic characters. Also, in a nice touch, Panebianco shows more skin than Chang in their sex scene.

This is really obscure and it doesn't deserve it. It had almost no release in 1987 (there were no stars to sell it) and was never a big hit on cable or video. Also Chang never made another movie and Panebianco disappeared after making a few more films (Whatever happened to him? He showed a lot of promise.). That's too bad--this deserves a bigger audience. Worth watching on cable or renting.
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8/10
Love and Ethnic Prejudice in New York City
claudio_carvalho17 May 2017
In the 80's, in New York City, the teenager Anthony "Tony" (Richard Panebianco) lives in Little Italy and works making pizza dough in a pizzeria. He goes to a nightclub, where he meets the gorgeous Chinese teenager Tye (Sari Chang) and they dance together. However the Chinese street gang led by Tsu Shin (Joey Chin) chases him, but he is saved by the Italian gang led by his older brother Alberto "Alby" (James Russo). Meanwhile Tsu Shin decides to blow-up a Chinese restaurant in Little Italy with two other gang members against the will of Yung Gan (Russell Wong), who is Tye's brother and real leader of the gang. His action provokes the wrath of Mr. Gung Tu (James Hong), who is the lord of the Chinese mafia. On the other side, Alby, his right arm and friend Mercury (David Caruso) and their gang decide to go to Chinatown in reprisal to the Chinese attack and the Italian mobster Enrico Perito (Robert Miano) warns them to respect the boundary of their neighborhood since there is a mafia agreement of the leaders. However Tony and Tye fall in love with each other and keep secretly seeing each other in the middles of the conflict between gangs with tragic consequences.

"China Girl" is probably one of the most commercial work of Abel Ferrara. Nevertheless it is a great film supported by magnificent direction and top-notch performances. The story of love and ethnic prejudice in tow close communities in New York City, Little Italy and Chinatown, slightly recalls the storyline of "Romeo and Juliet" and is closer indeed to the "West Side Story". Richard Panebianco and the gorgeous Sari Chang stopped their careers in the middle 90's despite their great performances. Last but not the least, thirty years after its release, "China Girl" has not aged and is still worthwhile watching. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Inimigos Pelo Destino" ("Enemies by Destiny")
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Not so bad at all!
ylive25 September 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Shakespeare's 'Romeo & Juliet' has been made on screen so many times and 'China Girl' is my favorite one. I agree that this is not a greate movie or even romantic one. However, I like this movie for it's truthful depiction of love and hate.

In 'China Girl', the bosses of Italian and Chinese gang make endless tension between their gangs to maintain their power in families. Unlike orginal play, these two poor lovers' death couldn't solve their fmilies' hatred but made it worse. Se la vie!
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8/10
The Cinema of Abel Ferrara: China Girl.
Captain_Couth15 August 2005
China Girl (1987) was an urban take on the classic Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet (courtesy of Nicholas St. John). The film was directed by the gritty street level film maker Abel Ferrara. Instead of the Capulets and the Montaques, this version involves two crime families (the Italian Mafia and Chinese Triads). Not only is this film about true love but it's about honor and old school loyalty. Instead of trying to follow the source material verbatim, Ferrara re-invents the classic tale.

I happen to be a big fan of Abel Ferrara. His style of film making is very unique and it's greatly missed in Hollywood. We need more directors like him. Someone who not only can make a movie on the cheap but produce a well thought-out film that'll force you to think and look outside the box.

Highly recommended.
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7/10
A story that never grows old.
lost-in-limbo29 December 2009
Director Abel Ferrara hit's the street's with this modern take on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet set amongst waring Italian and Chinese gangs… this is more so the younger generation… as the much older and wiser mafia / triad figures set out for peace so they don't draw unwanted attention from the man in blue. However these young-guns make it a battleground and caught between it is two love-struck lovers; a Chinese girl Tayn-Hwa and Italian lad Tony Monte. They don't care about colour or race, despite what's happening all around them and what it could do to them or even loved ones.

There's no real surprises to the old hat, if simply low-key material (which was penned by Ferrara's collaborator Nicholas St. John), as we pretty much know how this dangerous story plays out and eventually finishes, however director Ferrara has a gritty, but devoted style and upbeat tempo that's uniquely his own that elevates the conventional framework with his striking eye for a sense of place and powerfully lasting imagery that's uncompromising. He does more than just direct from the screenplay. The concentration on the tough, smoky urban setting (with excellent location photography of New York's bordering neighbourhoods Chinatown and little Italy), helps build a seedy atmosphere where hatred and violence is simply waiting to boil over, as obsession and pride becomes a death wish. Ferrara polarises it very well, especially the conflict not between (which is still quite blistering), but within the same races seeking out honour in who they are ---- this is where it was at its strongest, because the forbidden love angle (while important to the plot's progression) did stall and take away from some of the underlining tension. Although outside of its pushy race card slant, it does feel like it's just building up these explosive acts to glorify its foreseeable conclusion. Joe Delia's melancholy score fits in perfectly.

The performances are down-to-earth and genuinely projected by its cast. Richard Panebianco and Sari Chang are sympathetically touching as the two lovebirds. An admirable James Russo and especially a hot-headed David Caruso bring an unstoppable intensity to their roles. Russell Wong is quite laid-back in a sound performance, in his quest to please his elders by controlling his gang and that of his wayward sister. Journeyman actor James Hong pops up, as well as Robert Miano as heavies.

You might call it lesser Ferrara compared to his other works, but it's involving and efficiently handled with his trademark raw and brutal edge shining through.
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7/10
Romeo And Juliet of New York
bkoganbing5 April 2008
William Shakespeare's eternal tale of young love gets yet another version in China Girl. Despite the racial tensions between the Chinese of Chinatown and the shrinking Italian population of Little Italy, Sari Chang and Richard Panebianco find each other and find love. Now if only those who might become their prospective in-laws will stop the hate.

China Girl was filmed completely on location in New York's neighborhoods of Little Italy and Chinatown. As the film says Little Italy where the fabled fictional Godfather had the Genco Olive Oil company is shrinking block by block as the Italians move out and a huge influx of Orientals move in and expand Chinatown. China Girl was done in 1987 so in twenty years the trend is exacerbated.

Players like James Russo, Russell Wong, and David Caruso have all gone on to bigger and better things, they're certainly more known than the leads are now. Still Panebianco and Chang are an attractive pair of kids.

The soundtrack is typical music from the Eighties in keeping with the times. Don't expect any songs for the ages like there were in West Side Story.

China Girl is a nice retelling of Romeo and Juliet a story that as long as there's life on planet Earth will never go out of style.
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10/10
A 1980s WEST SIDE STORY
WILDCAT2137827 August 2001
This movie is like a West Side Story without all of the singing and dancing but,with plenty of blood and gore. The best thing about this movie is the fight scenes but some of the excessive violence can be a little off putting. Watchable but nothing special.
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8/10
"Tyan & Tony: Tragic Love Story"
gattonero97517 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of my favorite films of the 80's.

I never get tired of watching it.

The combo of the cinematography and the musical score makes it a winner for me.

The theme of Chinatown vs Little Italy leaves a bitter after taste but it is somewhat essential for the 'Romeo & Juliet' storyline that it seems to follow.

The two young leads as the sweet but doomed lovers 'Tye & Tony', Richard Panebianco and Sari Chang, did an OK job. It's I believe their film debuts. They really didn't have any chemistry together but they look good and cute together and they tried. I feel Panebianco was doing his best imitation of John Travolta's Tony Manero from Saturday Night Fever (1977)! LOL He was portraying an Italian named Tony however so...

James Russo as his older brother 'Alby' (Alberto), did a better job. Even though he was billed the leading star I felt his role was a supporting one. I don't know why, but Russo always seems shorter on film but in real life he is 5'11! Man, what the camera does to you!

David Caruso as 'Mecury', Russo's right-hand man is as intense and hyper I had seen Caruso do in acting. Here Caruso just let's go like a pit bull. He really stands out with his red hair. He looks more Irish than Italian but maybe he is a mix. His one scene where they are after the Chinese gang members, and they escape, he goes 'bananas' and starts shooting off his machine gun just everywhere! He really went 'ape sh*t' in that moment!

Russell Wong as the leader of the Chinese gang and older brother to Tye, did a very subdue and great job. I actually could see he and Tye as brother and sister. He really essayed being torn between his loyalty to the gang which includes his hot-wire cousin Tsu Shin played by a good and believable Joey Chin and the main Chinese Mob Boss Gung Tu played by the great and wonderful character actor, James Hong.

Robert Miano plays the head Wiseguy,Enrico Perit, that Russo answers to. he did a good job also. His scene with Russo was all "Soprano" worthy.

Oh and before I forget, the one gang member of the Chinese gang who really stood out for me was the bulky and muscular guy. I don't know what his name was in the movie so I can't tell which one he is in the credits but he must have impressed Ferrara because this 'Bolo Yeung-looking dude' had his very own death scene! After being shot in the arm by Caruso, he escapes and makes it to his hideout and treats his wound and falls asleep. Where he is awakened by Hong's Gung Tu's henchmen who is there and stabs him in the chest! He is so strong that he gets up and takes the knife out and raises it to use it on the henchmen when another knife through the back finishes him off. It was one of Miano's Enrico Perit's henchmen. So all in all a great end to this muscular but evil young gang member.

All in all, a great film. Like I said, one of my all-time favorites. I highly recommended it. It deserves a least one good viewing in your lifetime.
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8/10
Big Love Trouble in Little Italy and Chinatown...
ElMaruecan821 April 2020
It's a story told so many times it belongs to our cultural DNA, the heartbreaking tale of star-crossed lovers, featuring more or less the same archetypes: tribal rivalries, protective siblings, forbidden rendezvous, declarations of undying love and ultimately a tragic ending... it's a story told in bloody letters and that found its deepest resonance in the deaths of Juliet and her Romeo. But it wasn't the first romance of its kind as men always knew the meaning and value of love, and of hatred (as both go along anyway).

The story never gets old because it's about enduring values for every culture and civilization: love and family, both seal the idea that our hearts can't evolve in autopilot mode, we either belong to our inner circle or the person we love, never to ourselves and this might be the source of some antagonism. Out of love, one is willing to free himself from the clan to belong to the outsider, contradicting the traditional vision of love as a tool to perpetuate the tradition, to ensure transmission, a mean to a non-end. One who is alone is always weaker.

And it's not surprising that Abel Ferrara, of all the directors, used the "Romeo and Juliet" or "West Side Story" canvas to make his "China Girl", he does care for the romance and handles it with sweet sensitivity but to better insist on the clan systems that make it impossible and doomed. The love story is between a young Italian-American played by Richard Panebianco (he was 16 during the film) and Tye, a beautiful Chinese girl played by Sari Chang. The romance works but even more as the subplot of something a little more in line with Ferrara's universe, a gang war between kids from Little Italy and Chinatown, a fight for territory, enhancing the necessity of sticking together, making the lone wolf the weakest link, and codifying love under the rule of "blood".

"China Girl" isn't a remake of the Jets vs. the Sharks antagonism despite the similarities (even the hero's name is Tony), but a violent commentary on urban youth and its natural inclination for violence driven by pride, the more you love your own, the less you care for the other and sometimes, the stronger you despise him. The film opens with a misleading scene showing a Cantonese restaurant being built under the sorry eyes of an Italian neighborhood. In the pizzeria right from the other side, James Russo (he's Tony's brother and has connections with the local mob boss played by Robert Miano), we see the war coming between two cultures. But the film toys with archetypes to better subvert them, revealing depths that are a credit to Ferrara's intelligence.

Indeed, the real antagonism isn't intercultural but intergenerational, while the young ones try to make ends meet by spreading their influence or forcing local shops to pay tributes in exchange of protection, their elders try to maintain peace. We see in a crucial face-off between the local Mafioso and the Chinese "Godfather" (played by James Hong) that the young punks only bring disturbance, interfering with their own interests. In a way, the young generation is lead to its own, paradoxically acting against their elders' values while duplicating them. It's ironic that Tye's brother (Russell Wong) wants to protect her from seeing an Italian while his uncle is treating with one.

These quiet drama moments show that this is not your usual urban warfare though the racist undertones are much real, the catalyst is a cultural self-preservative instinct that predominates in the hearts of young people and make them act violently and desperately. That's the real tragedy: that violence might be targeting the other but is somewhat directed toward yourself.

Ferrara has often been labeled as a poor man's Scorsese and it's tempting to spot the similarities between his urban landscape and exploration of tribal violence with films like "Mean Streets" (the film even features the obligatory Virgin Mary procession in that iconic street) but Ferrara injects his own iconoclast perception. His film doesn't really condemn violence (without endorsing it) as much as it highlights its deep roots in social units. In his "Funeral" film, brothers were all united in the imminence of their downfall, in "Bad Lieutenant" a cop was contaminated by the moral corruption he faced every day. And even "Body Snatchers" showed that the trouble can come from within and that perhaps there's no possible deliverance as long as we "belong" to a group.

It's a vicious circle where violence isn't exactly an evil but an inevitable path to cross, maybe a rite of passage making you either a bad person or a victim, no other way around. The real paradox is that for all their diverging traits, kids dress the same, are equally violent or brotherly, they dance to the same pop music, go to the same night clubs. There's something also very conformist in youth and perhaps that's why the film indulges to so many 80s clichés. With the atmosphere of an 80s clip, the film has the films conveys the vibes of that era making it a decade-defining film but there's more than style that dictates Ferrara's touch. The director doesn't make his film a hymn against racism because both Tony and Tye don't see the differences, they have the same age, the same aspirations and they met at the same night-club and enjoyed the same music.

The tragedy isn't that their love causes trouble because they belong to different communities but because there aren't many differences to begin with. That's the illusion of youth, it pretends to rebel against an order while forming an even more violent one, it's all about peer pressure and love impulses, in the name of differences and tacit laws that are futile and ultimately dangerous. Ferrara does turns a classic romantic material into a real hymn for anarchy... one that would make Marco Polo roll over his grave.
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6/10
China Girl
RaulFerreiraZem22 July 2019
Ferrara's China Girl, like many other films by the director, namely The king of new york and The funeral, is not afraid to approach tough political themes but also like these films just mentioned above is insufficient in its discourse and not captivating enough to make the viewer actually care about these issues. The whole plot and message relyes on the relationship between Tony and Tye , the problem is that even though that is the case the film barely shows them bonding and falling for each other and we are just supposed to believe that they love each other even though the movie give us no reason whatsoever why they should. That for me is the biggest reason why the film is insufficient in its message and ends up just leaving the viewer indifferent to the issues there presented. With that said, it's not a bad movie, it has it's charm.
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Okay action flick almost done in by the lack of chemistry between two leads
mamamiasweetpeaches14 January 2004
ROMEO AND JULIET begat WEST SIDE STORY which begat CHINA GIRL. To say the plot of CHINA GIRL is good is stating the obvious: how are you going to improve on Shakespear? Story old as time there are two young lovers who meet at a party and fall in love while dancing together. They come from feauding families. The boy is Italian and the girl is Chinese in this case. They both have friends and family who are hoodlums. They are continually told to stay in thier own neighborhoods, but of course this leads to them sneaking around to meet. Both leads are attractive but not great actors. The thing that annoyed me about this film was the lack of chemistry. Watch the sex scene. Look at the girls face. She does not even seem to be enjoying herself, let alone in passionate rapture. This is the sort of sex scene usually seen in movies about sad, poor, or even drug hazed people. The storyline needs to capitalize on these two being so in love they cant bare to be apart, and thier lack of chemistry muddles this.
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7/10
The beautiful Chang, a girl worth fighting for
China Girl was a hip and very violent movie, I wish I saw at the cinema, when I had the chance. Italian boy falls for Chinese Girl-true romance, a reciprocated love. Now, here's the impasse: they're both related to warring gangs, even though the Italians, really the good guys, do have it in for the Chinese, where this Chinese Gang are part of a mafia, merely puppets on a string. When the Italian boy, Gino (an impressive Richard Panebianco) narrowly escapes having his lights punched out, when chased by the Chinese gang, the head the lovestruck girl's brother, this doesn't detur him or her, from further progressing the relationship, where they keep sneaking off like little children, despite warnings from their older protectors. As Wong, an Asian actor I love watching, says to her little Sis, Thai (an equally impressive Sari Chang) "You don't understand, you're nothing but a chink to them". I appreciated Wong's honesty, here, where honor runs high among this race. Wong was never truer in his words, too. Gino's older brother, Alby, and his friends are racist goons. In particular is red haired Caruso, who I loved in this, despite playing a d..khead immature character of loathing. One scene has him ordering egg rolls, while disrespectfully making squinting eyes at some Asian cooks nearby, while also insulting the ones serving him. Now that's a d..khead. Panebianco sets him straight defending the Chinese, where a physical fight almost ensues. It would of been good to see how it ended up, if Russo hadn't stepped in, but we know all too well, that Caruso would of one won, ending this conversation by getting Panebianco in a headlock, simmering him, then cutting him loose, where Panebianco would of just shrugged him off, and walked away. It is too, the worst fitting time, for these gangs to be in an escalating turf war, a war which of course, is also personal, caused by our love struck duo, as the Asian and Italian mafia head are trying to make a peace, a business negotiation. This is complicated by the arch enemy gangs, feuding, the main plot of the story, which I really liked. China Girl has great pumping music, it's finale song, I loved, after one of the most memorable and tragic climaxes I've seen. It's a simple message told throughout it's story, the consequences of hate and racism, that we don't just have to view it on screen. The exterior shot settings of Chinatown, and the Italian hood are well chosen. This Romeo and Juliet tale, minus the happy ending, but with stylized violence, a plus, has some great action sequences, one involving a shootout I loved, that ended with Caruso's crazed look, as he mouthed "Mother fu..ers" through clenched teeth. China Girl has it all, where the action/blood craving viewer will get his three dollars worth. One of the '88 movie treats. One of Ferrara's best. Personally, China Girl is his favorite, in his list of filmographies.
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6/10
quite dated and sometimes painfully corny, but also entertaining and occasionally intense
Quinoa198412 May 2010
It should be given that Abel Ferrara and his writer Nicholas St. John knew what they were doing with China Girl. The influence of Romeo & Juliet would be first to come to mind, but I think it was even more-so West Side Story that must have loomed in their minds. Some of the influence is so painfully obvious as to seem like a rip-off (the main male character in love is even named Tony), and on a more immediate level of the period- the good ol' mid 1980's- things like hip-hop, synth-dance music, and of course Michael Jackson's 'Beat It' are inter-connected with the film. I almost expected in some of these gang-fight scenes to hear Eddie Van Halen's wicked guitar solo to come up on the soundtrack.

Oh, Ferrara does have his moments with the material, which is very basically about turf war between the Chinese in Chinatown and the Italians in Little Italy, with Canal street as the dividing line. There is some interest in how the conflict comes up when a Chinese restaurant pops up on the side of Little Italy - and yet the owner doesn't want to pay the usual protection fee to the Chinese gang just because he's Chinese. This spurs on some major problems, violence, and of course Tony and Tyan-Hwa at the center.

A flaw in the film is that we're never really sure why the two lovebirds are even in love with each other. Again, like Robbins/Wise's film, they spot each other from across the dance hall and have a dance, and their curiosity in each other, the ol' 'love-at-first-sight' thing. But it doesn't really gel as well with the gritty realism and street toughness of the rest of the picture; when Tony and Tyan-Hwa give each other sweet nothings ("How do you say 'I love you in Italian?" "How do you say it in Chinese?") it's some of the corniest material you've never seen. It's not that the actors are bad in their parts- the actress playing Tyan-Hwa has some tenderness to her that is nice for the production.

But there's some inconsistency with how the story flows, sometimes scene to scene. Here and there a memorable moment happens (RUN DMC's Walk This Way is the only thing to never get dated, for a great dance number), and the fighting scenes are well staged and intense. There's a few fascinating supporting or minor roles, like James Hong as Gung Tu, the head of the Chinese crime family who, most wisely, wants just peace and quiet between the rivals. And yet there's also some acting and writing that just doesn't work, period (what, for example, is David Caruso, a red-haired Irish guy, doing with a bunch of Italianos in this story, good as he might be), and the ending, while appropriately tragic and well-staged, doesn't fit the rest of the time Ferrara's after.

It's as if, basically, Ferrara decided to make his comment on West Side Story, give it some importance in a present-time setting of 1987, and the little-seen angle of Chinese-vs-Italian gangs, and make it rougher, less cheesy than its influences. But really, who wants realism when you've got love-at-first-sight? It's an interesting experiment that is a very mixed bag.
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2/10
Romeo is bleeding...ugh.
ptb-816 May 2008
This is a disgusting film, vicious and stupid. It contains scenes of beatings so furious and so pointlessly vicious it was enough to see it flung from theaters in 1987 and the DVD from your living room window today. Apparently it is supposed to be Romeo and Juliet or East meets West side story or some blather but really it is Abel Ferrara's talentless take on previously celebrated material amped up to 11 on the kick-o-meter. I just despised this production; it is a complete waste of resources and talent. Even 21 years later with cretinous violence infecting suburban multiplexes, this film stands out as a complete failure as a depiction of humanity. There is just scene after scene of moronic characters and hideous beatings. What a complete waste of your time and the actor's careers. Awful in the extreme. You can always quickly figure a film maker without talent when the violence gimmick is the reason for making the film in the first place. (The Eli and Quentin school of no-ideas).
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5/10
Gangland Romeo and Juliet (spoilers)
vertigo_1419 November 2004
Warning: Spoilers
China Girl presents a theme prevalent in cheap 80s action movies -- the Chinatown gangs, often with showdowns between the Chinese and the Italians via gang wars. You'll see a lot of this with 80s American martial arts movies, in particular.

China Girl also seems to prevent a tone from director Abel Ferrer which becomes much more evident and much more forceful in his 1996 film, The Funeral, which is a sadly underrated movie about the perpetration of gang life through three mafioso brothers. The dismaying realities of gang life are expressed here, though less sophisticatedly through a Romeo and Juliet gangland story. Though entertaining (for the most part, aside from much of the repetition throughout the movie), you cannot help but remain unconvinced about the tale as one viewer has already commented, because of the extreme lack of chemistry between the two main characters. Yes, the sex scene does seem ridiculous.

Nonetheless, the story is about a teenage Italian-American boy who refuses to participate in the turf wars with his relatives against the Chinese-Americans in Chinatown. Like Vincent Gallo's character realizes in 'The Funeral,' the young man, Tony, likewise cannot see the logic in the continuous fighting, especially once he has fallen in love with the Chinese gang's sister.

Things do tend to get sappy in this movie, and aside from the point about senseless gang violence, there is not much else going on. The writers go slightly overboard in bogging down the audience with this point, that they forgot to put in some filler (unless you're one hundred percent entertained by the fight sequences). It is not a bad movie, and certainly one of the better movies I have seen by Abel Ferrer ('Fear City' in my opinion was his worst, 'The Funeral' was his best). If you're in the mood for 80s action nostalgia, it's a good vice.
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4/10
OK if you're in the mood for movies that take in NYC back in the day.
ladybeanandcats2 January 2015
Well... I usually refrain from writing movie reviews for the simple fact that most who do tend to write them in a way that denotes total arrogance as if they are Siskel or Ebert or something and that tone, alone, usually turns my stomach. Who are you movie snobs anyway? So so picky. Anyway, I was trying to find "Georgie Girl" online tonight and although I've got it on DVD I did not feel like getting up and looking for it so I found this movie, instead. Now... my love affair with the old NYC goes back to childhood when my father used to be a truck driver and we were regaled with stories about that crazy town and also my own early memories of it. Suffice to say, I'm pretty hot over old flicks that present excellent street shots of the old NY so I figured I'd watch it, NO idea what to expect. The description made me leery from the start as it already sounded so corny and unoriginal.

It's funny cause I was somewhat embarrassed throughout the entire film, sensing the kind of crappy reviews people must write about it. Much to my surprise, however, not only did most more or less deem it a hidden gem, it was compared multiple times to "Romeo and Juliet"? Huh. Honestly that was the last thing I thought. I love movies and judge the pretty fairly, based on whether or not I enjoyed them, not on how popular they are, how much they grossed at the box office, special effects, or even in comparison to others made by the same person or within the same genre. I don't pretend to be some film connoisseur and use extraordinary language in an attempt to sound more sophisticated like most reviewers do.

As for "sexual chemistry" for those of you who stated there was none, I guess that just means you were wanting boobs and for her to be all over him? Uh, no. This is about as real as awkward teens who barely known each other as it gets even if we only ever see them dancing together. This main theme is obscured by all the racial tension surrounding them. In fact, the first however many minutes of this movie leads one to think that it's only going to be about the gang wars across Canal St. And then back to them, oh yeah, we forgot it was about you guys. Anyway... What I can say is that this movie was OK. It fills a niche. Lots of overkill in the bloodbath department. I don't know if they realized after all their editing but in the end all they did in this film was kill each other and make sure we saw lots of blood. Did they think this is what their audience wanted more of? I thought the "in your face" effort was rather obvious. That made me roll my eyes with embarrassment. The other thing I couldn't help but notice was why are all movies about street gangs or otherwise in NYC involving some other group with or all Italian Americans? NYC is a huge. Little Italy never was. America must think NYC is nothing but little isolated and racially segregated neighborhoods when it's really not. NYC is a huge city and despite the old world culture presence in certain sections, it's still a very diverse place and people don't shoot each other in public generally for being on someone else's turf. Not in 1987 anyway. They get on the subway with ppl from ALL OVER THE WORLD and live among them.

SO now this film is overkill in: 1. bloody violence

2. cultural stereotype (did I mention the old county mother in the kitchen in an apron in every scene no matter what time of day cooking from scratch like it's 1930?

The movie is somewhat one- sided,leaning more towards the Italian community. We see very little of the Chinese community and the inner relationships of those characters. Not saying there is racial preference in this film but it shows what perspective the writer is more familiar with.

It's taking some liberties and I'm sure the makers of this film would be impressed by comparing this movie to Romeo and Juliet. When you think of A Bronx Tale, yet another cliché Italian American mafia theme in NYC but in this story an African American chick on the wrong side of the street, not much difference there but not so much Romeo and Juliet.

All through this film I'm wondering, if these two know how to take the damn subway, why aren't they just meeting out in any of the other many many places that exist out of this 20 or so block radius in which they live? Duh. Its NYC. None of them have accents so they've been in NYC and American long enough to not be stuck in their own hood. It's so embarrassing! It's very unrealistic for its time considering how much of the downtown was already being infiltrated by yuppies and artists so they were, in reality, NOT in some ethnic wasteland.

In conclusion, there's a larger message here (in all seriousness, or not) Neither of the two households at the epicenter of this film seem to have fathers present. In fact, the brother and sister have NO parents, it seems. *How* old are they?? He supports them both on his wages as a waiter? Basically, if you have no father, this is how you will end up. Jk but did anyone else notice this?? This movie was made for some quick, cheap thrills and a quick buck. I'm not surprised it did not do well, outside of what little I mentioned in some half competent analysis.
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