“Revenge of the Green Dragons”, the latest crime film offering by acclaimed director Andrew Lau, and executive produced by the legendary, Martin Scorsese, opens in theaters October 24th and is currently available on DirecTV. The film, approximately 94 minutes, is akin to that of a game of pai gow (chinese dominoes); carefully structured yet, at several times, an uneasy dance.
Andrew Lau, most notable for directing “Infernal Affairs” the Hong Kong crime-thriller the Academy Award winning film “The Departed” was based on, offers us a hyper violent, completely brutal, and unapologetic look at the real-life Queens based gang, infamously known as “The Green Dragons” and came to prominence through a New Yorker article written by Fredric Dannen. The article, “Revenge of the Green Dragons” concerns itself with the gang, their violent history and blood soaked signature left on New York through the 1980’s to early 90’s. The film, is shot, acted, and stylized in the only way a stereotypical crime film should be and services the original article by Fredric Dannen in a surprising and welcome way. All credit being given to screenwriters Michael Di Jiacomo and Andrew Loo, the choice of direction by Andrew Lau is most certainly a nod to some of the better crime films cinema has seen and movies most likely having been directed by Martin Scorsese. Just don’t expect a rock n’ roll soundtrack, complete with the obligatory Rolling Stones song here. Instead we get a rock inspired score by Mark Kilian which though it complements the story does often feel like a rip-off of a bad action movie or after school special showcasing the dangers of drugs.
The film benefits from having a likable cast portraying very unlikable people. “Revenge of the Green Dragons” revolves around two immigrant brothers growing up in Elmhurst, “viewed as likely gang targets” they become members of the Green Dragons through a series of unfortunate incidents. Actors, Justin Chon (Sonny Wong) and Kevin Wu (Steven Ng) are convincing in portraying young men in a gang, navigating a dangerous world, and desperately searching for their “American dream.” Justin Chon, as Sonny, particularly shines and radiates an unnerving warmth for a gang member for quickly rises through the ranks. We should hate him. After all, he kills, cheats, steals, and shakes down, yet we care. It’s a rare actor that can create such a feeling for a character, especially for someone upon someone real, and Justin Wong hits every beat. Another honorable mention goes to the beautiful and talented, Eugenia Yuan (Memoirs of a Geisha) seen here as a human trafficker and one of the private leaders of The Green Dragons, only referred to as “the Snakehead Mama.” She is cold, smug, and a completely despicable person who is calculating living out her “American dream.”
Thanks to A24 and the people at Brigade Marketing for presenting a screening of “Revenge of the Green Dragons.” While it is a flawed film, it is not without its merits. The cast, right down to a glorified cameo by Ray Liotta, presents an unforgiving take on one of the harshest of street gangs. The director, Andrew Lau gives us another film in the vein of his crime classic, “Infernal Affairs.” And it’s his attention to setting and tone that elevates this movie from what could have easily become a forgettable and by the numbers thriller. The danger that surrounds adolescents and the world around the world of being a youth permeates “Revenge of the Green Dragons.” And, if it wasn’t for me and all my friends lighthearted adventures and experiences that helped turn me into a man, the opening 10 minutes of Andrew Lau’s film definitely would have been sobering and jolting experience.
3 out of 6 bullets for “Revenge of the Green Dragons.”
Check out the trailer…