Review: Revenge of the Green Dragons (TIFF 2014)

Revenge of the Green Dragons (TIFF 2014)
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PLOT: In the late-eighties/early nineties, a violent gang of Chinese immigrants take the NYC underworld by storm, building up an empire focused on drug smuggling and human trafficking.

REVIEW: REVENGE OF THE GREEN DRAGONS is one of the few TIFF movies that – for me – has not lived up to my expectations. While his first American movie, THE FLOCK, wasn't any good, director Andrew Lau (who co-directed this with writer Andrew Loo) has a long and accomplished career as a Hong Kong director, being responsible for the INFERNAL AFFAIRS trilogy, which was famously remade as THE DEPARTED.

Clearly, Martin Scorsese is eager to repay the favor, with him getting a “presented by” credit as this gets a high-profile VOD release from Direct TV and distributor A24. Their confidence is not merited, as REVENGE OF THE GREEN DRAGONS is a mess and even worse than THE FLOCK.

While based on a true events, Lau's film plays out like an American reboot of his popular YOUNG & DANGEROUS series from HK. All the basic elements are there, from the heartthrob leading man (Justin Chon) to the cutesy-poo love interest, to heavy-handed themes of brotherhood and revenge, with the standard tacked-on police inspector subplot, the resolution of which won't surprise anyone who's ever seen a Chinese gangster movie.

Even being wholly unoriginal, REVENGE OF THE GREEN DRAGONS could have been decent if only it had a little energy or style. Forget the gorgeous Christopher Doyle-fueled imagery from INFERNAL AFFAIRS, this looks like a cable movie from the nineties, with dialogue that sounds like it was lifted from a subpar episode of 21 JUMP STREET. The only positive thing I can say is that somehow star Justin Chon (21 & OVER) manages to keep a straight face while saying lines like “a storm is coming and I don't know of an umbrella big enough to keep the city from getting wet.” Sigh.

What's especially awful is how little attention has been paid to period detail. While this takes place in the late-eighties and early-nineties, no effort has been made to make this feel like it's set in that period. Everyone wears contemporary clothes, there are no songs from the period on the soundtrack, and at one point the gang is listening to a rap song that sounds far too current. I was half expecting someone to whip out an iPhone – that's how bad this is.

The plot – what little there is – revolves around a Chinese immigrant, played by Chon, who joins the Green Dragons to look out for his adopted brother. Much deception and betrayal ensues. The biggest name here is Ray Liotta, but he looks like he shot his scenes in a day and barely registers. Clearly he's only here so someone can throw the names Scorsese and Liotta together on a poster and rely on goodwill to fool people into seeing this. Don't fall for it.

The only other “name” actor is Harry Chum Jr from GLEE as the leader of the Green Dragons. He's fine, and fits the genre, but it's a two dimensional part. If he had anything to work with he might have been good, of which the same goes for Chon.

Even on an action level RETURN OF THE GREEN DRAGONS disappoints, with only a few quick gun-battles, none of which are shot with any style. This is DTV quality all the way. It's a half-assed effort by all involved. I doubt any of Lau's HK movies would be this bad. Its inclusion in the TIFF lineup is mystifying.

Source: JoBlo.com



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