#REVIEW: “REVENGE OF THE GREEN DRAGONS”
I can stomach gore and certainly can stomach sexuality on-screen, but nothing prepared me for the frenzy of violence in TIFF ’14 Selection, Revenge of the Green Dragons, which now sees a Video-on-Demand release. The pedigree certainly is there with Martin Scorcese as Executive Producer, helmed by the Man behind the critically and commercially-lauded Infernal Affairs Trilogy, Andrew Lau; Andrew Loo co-directs. Something ultimately is missing though in this gun-firing, knife-stabbing Drama based upon a 1992 The New Yorker Exposé by Frederic Dannen about one of New York’s most violent Asian Gangs.
The Story set in the ’80s, centers on two Best Friends, Sonny (Justin Chon) and Steven (Kevin Wu) who terrifyingly at a young age are plucked from their impoverished lives and groomed for a life of crime by the Green Dragons, led by Chen I Chung (Leonard Wu). The fast-paced Story told through their eyes, has us rampaging through homes – women are raped, people are killed, children are defecated upon, fingers are hacked off even in the fight for territorial supremacy. The scope widens on the larger issue of a Human Trafficking Ring headed by Snakehead Mama (Eugenia Yuan) and Paul Wong (Harry Shum Jr.), in which illegal immigrants are brought-in to the Country to join the Gang. A turning point takes place when the life of a Caucasian man is taken, placing the activities of the fearful Gang under the scrutiny of Detective Michael Bloom (Ray Liotta).
What makes a Chinese Crime Film like Infernal Affairs so great is that it is smartly calculated – the focus always is the Story regardless of violence. The violence is so copious and at times outright uncomfortable to watch in Revenge of the Green Dragons, that we wonder whether it not it truly serves to accomplish any message or a purpose in advancing the Plot other than illustrating how ruthless the Gang is. Through it all we get minimal insight towards understanding Character drivers – the Film reads more as a Crime Re-Enactment than a study about Third-Class Citizenship in America and Gang Relations. Despite us being thrilled that the Film in ways is giving a voice to an under-represented demographic in American Cinema, we failed to be drawn-in by the Story’s two male Leads and a Subplot involving Sonny‘s doomed romance with Tina (Shuya Chang). There are many stories to be told still within the Asian-American Community and we hope they don’t always necessarily have to involve brute violence.
VVS Films release REVENGE OF THE GREEN DRAGONS via Video-on-Demand on Tuesday, February 10, 2015.