Sep 13, 2009

Year of the Dragon

Imagine a crime thriller starring the young, angelic face of Mickey Rourke and add a touch of a belligerent dose of terrible violence. Not the accustomed violence we're given through modern media in that pampering and stylized manner that we're subjected to on a daily basis. No smoke and mirrors here, Year of the Dragon features a stark and in-your-face style of dealing with death and injury. Close-up shots of fatal wounds and selfish tragedy are given by Michael Cimino using his sleight of hand acquired from the Oscar-winning Deer Hunter and such adds the illusion of a neon-lit gangster epic set in Chinatown. With epic as the term I use to describe this film, know that the running time and the pacing conjures the thought of this being an epic and not what consists of the actual underlayings fo the film. From my hiatus of writing was born a love of the way classic films were created and in this, and not to play devil's advocate, I find the classic aesthetic of crime capers to be consistently more fulfilling than the bravest structured contemporary film around.

Mickey Rourke, as per usual, grabs the attention of all who view this film. There is no supporting cast or honorable mentions, there is only . Your gaze will be transfixed on a 30 year old Rourke playing a 50-something year old Vietnam vet. Analyze this, Harley Davidson & the Marlboro Man without Mickey Rourke would be as caring for a child that isn't your biological spawn. Sure, the instinct for parental nurturing would still exist as would the film Harley Davidson but the passion and excitement from the adventures of a former A-list actor would be void. Face it, it would harness the credibility of a recent Dolph Lundgren Straight-to-DVD title (Sorry, Dolph.) For a film of its nature, you'd think that press, no, even cult film lovers could approach this film open-armed but it appears that Year of the Dragon has been shunned into obscurity because of "an offending portrait of Chinese-Americans." Never mind the blurb at the opening of the film disregarding all "stereotypes" portrayed in this film. Since then, Year of the Dragon has never sat well with the chinks and please, disregard their portrayal of the "white demon." For once I wish I could write something as loud and angry as Cimino's Year of the Dragon. Rather, Rourke's Year of the Dragon.

Audience discrepancies will linger after the foul approach of showing the Chinese-Americans as being the soulless parasites they are. Moving over to our country and adopting their thousand year old traditions in a place of law and justice. This doesn't sit will with Captain Stanley White as he endangers his own life and the life of all who care for him as Year of the Dragon explodes into a rip wave of unexplainable bloodshed and shocking climaxes at every turn. Captain Stanley White is the most bizarre of protagonists. Layered plentifully, the more we learn about his character, the more solace we garner and the more trust we put in his judgment. Then when the proverbial shit hits the fan, we find ourselves reaching out to silence his continuing mistakes and realize that he isn't the great guy we thought he was, over and over again. And that is just one of the reasons that I feel Year of the Dragon is a marvelous film for what it is - an effervescently chaotic scripture of backwards racism and the perfect amount of needed misogyny.

I occasionally dine at Chinese/Japanese buffets and sit baffled wondering where in context could the harmonic, yet infuriating, mandarin music could be properly squeezed into its soothing and proper effect. Year of the Dragon sporadically incorporates these similar sounds while perusing through the extensive Chinese crime families while heavy percussion accompany most of the Polack-American scenes of brutal detective work. A gripe comes to mind when assessing the Chinese half of the film, it's not so much as a gripe with Year of the Dragon but my own inability to maintain memories on which Lee-Hung family belongs to which Triad while Johnny Cho is out with Walter Wang. Since Tremors debuted some time ago and devastated the rental market, I've found myself lampooning the similarly named Chinamen. As I stated, my problem but my personal fulfillment as well. Ariane's perfomance didn't help my intolerable Oriental condition either, with her performance as wooden as my love for Legally Blonde spinoffs.

(Pictured left to right, Lone, Woo, Chin, Wong, Wang....or something)

In conclusion, Year of the Dragon is a rousing and voracious view into stereotyped crime syndicates. So much may be true while the rest lingers upon notations hidden in books long forgotten but that's the problem with adaptations and their "contemporary redesignings," so you'll see little complaint from me. To call Year of the Dragon "racist" is to say Tom Hanks has too much screen time in Cast Away. These media vultures love digging for subversion and uprooting it into some big fiasco. Attention whores, all of them! Year of the Dragon isn't an intelligent film per say, but an emotional one for sure. Many times throughout this gem I found myself appraising Captain Stanley White for being such a cool cat while the other times I felt as if a similar tragedy were shared psychically. That right there is one of the many definitions of movie magic.


1 comment:

Derek said...

As always, excellent review. I'll be attempting a rental shortly.