Friday, 18 March 2016

Revenge of the Green Dragons

Title: Revenge of the Green Dragons
Director:  Andrew Lau and Andrew Loo
Released:  2014
Starring: Ray Liotta, Justin Chon, Shuya Chang, Harry Shum, Jr. Kevin Wu, Billy Magnussen, Eugenia Yuan,

Plot: Childhood friends Sonny (Chon) and Steven  (Wu) are recuited by the local Chinatown gang “The Green Dragons” as they soon move up the ranks as the journey into adulthood in 1980’s New York.

Review: Yet another film based on an article (see also Pain and Gain / The Bling Ring) going into this one I was optimistic especially seeing how Andrew Lau most memorably gave us the fantastic “Infernal Affairs” trilogy which Martin Scorsese appearing here on executive producer duties adapted into his inferior yet still Oscar winning “The Departed”. An Oscar I personally felt was more for his career than the film itself with this involvement in this film perhaps being his way of thanking Lau for essentially giving him his first Best Director Oscar which as will soon become clear might be the only reason he’d want to attach himself to this film as sadly this is not a good example of either directors work, as Lau here making his second attempt to break into the Western studio system after his forgettable previous attempt with “The Flock” back in 2007. Instead what we get here instead is essentially the Triad version of “Goodfellas” as seemingly every triad cliché is thrown into the film.

Opening to Sonny and Steven as they are recruited as kids to join the Green Dragons, who are also one of the top five gangs in New York though its hard to see how this recruitment works, seeing how they are shown being chased and beaten up by the baseball jacket favouring members before suddenly becoming gang members while age certainly doesn’t seem to be for the gang as the boys are soon sent out on their first hit on a rival gang leader despite still being young boys.

Needless to say things don’t get any better for the film as it stumbles from one random plot thread to the next, with neither of our leads doing anything to really warm themselves to the audience or even make us care about their plight which really only seems to stretch as far as the gang trying to get to that next level. As to be expected this is all accomplished through gratuitous violence, macho gun play and more off putting a thankfully none to explicit gang rape of the wife and daughter of a rival ganger leader holding out on the location of his funds.

The cast are all passible enough in their roles with Leonard Wu in particular coming off especially memorable as the Dragon’s masochistic leader Chen I. Chung who thinks nothing off kidnapping, torturing and butchering a rival gang leader. Elsewhere Eugenia Yuan is wasted as the people smuggler Snakehead Mama and one of the few characters I wish had been developed further much like the two young detectives who are introduced seemingly to only highlight how little the local police department cares about the triad violence and local Asian population.  Ray Liotta meanwhile is more of a glorified cameo and whose role could easily have been cut out of the film while making you wonder if he was included to provide anything other than star power to sell to the film much to western audiences who’d more than likely skip over this film otherwise.

Despite the short runtime this one was a grind to get through, perhaps because I was expecting more than just another triad thriller and even on that level there are certainly better films such as Lau’s own “Young and Dangerous” series which essentially do what we get here better and certainly more enjoyably.

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