Revenge of the Green Dragons (2014)
Written by Michael Di Jiacomo and Andrew Loo
Directed by Wai-Keung Lau & Andrew Loo
In the early 1980s, an immigrant named Sonny becomes embroiled in the Chinese-American gang The Green Dragons. They operated out of Flushing-Queens and are a group of young upstarts attempting to use brutal force to push out their older rivals. As Sonny and his adopted brother Steven move up the ranks of the gang, they begin to personally experience the cost of their involvement. Meanwhile, the NYPD and FBI are becoming increasingly more aware of the Green Dragons and their growing presence on the New York organized crime scene.
Holy shit. This movie is bad. I’ve never seen Infernal Affairs but had heard good things about it so with that film’s director on board and Martin Scorsese producing I didn’t think this would be bad. Boy, was I wrong. From the opening voice-over, it becomes painfully obvious we’re in for an hour and a half of pure cliche. Everything is played with such earnest seriousness that the movie becomes parody right from the start. And there are moments where it is that fun sort of camp, but most of the time it is just dull and horrible.
The opening scene, as Sonny arrives in America, he is herded into a warehouse by a group of human traffickers. Their method of acclimating the new arrivals to American culture is to make them eat a hot dog. I am not joking. And this scene is played as totally serious. The pace of the movie is so frantic and without meaningful transition that you will literally never get to know the main characters in any manner. We see Kevin rushing to the bathroom at school where he stumbles upon Green Dragons beating the shit out of a random kid. They make Kevin defecate on the bloodied and battered kid and then abducted Kevin. The next time we see Kev, he is bound at the wrists, standing on a block of ice, and being punched in the stomach with one gang member about to castrate him. Then Paul, the leader of the Green Dragons, busts in and just says “Hey kid, want to join our gang?” The next scene is days later and Kevin, who is twelve or thirteen years old, shows up at the restaurant where his mother and Sonny work in a perm with blonde highlights wearing a gang jacket and pulling a gun to make threats. What? This is the first ten minutes!!!!! The stakes of this movie go from the most insane, intense thing to boring and mundane so fast you will get dizzy.
The dialogue will make you cringe. I have no doubts that that. Here are some winning lines:
“There’s a storm coming, and I don’t know of any umbrella that can keep this city dry.”
“Always shoot guy in head like taking candy from baby.”
There is the tired and cliches Hong Kong film tropes of slow motion and brooding anti-heroes. A whining guitar riff underscores most of the movie, sounding like the soundtrack to Miami Vice. The film is set in the late 1980s, yet there is not a single piece of wardrobe or set dressing that would make you believe it isn’t set in modern day. Characters get into dumb arguments over petty things and then don’t seem to convey a sense of severe anger over events that would warrant an emotional explosion. There is just nothing redeemable about this dull, unthinkingly violent, mess of a film. Please let me get out of this period of A24 movies as soon as possible!