Revenge of the Green Dragons (2014)

(On Cable TV, August 2016) I spent a fair chunk of my twenties watching Hong Kong action movies, so my expectations were pretty reasonable in approaching Revenge of the Green Dragons, a film that takes on Chinese immigrant criminal adventures in eighties New York City. Co-Director Andrew Lau, after all, is the director of the classic Infernal Affairs. Alas, the result is far more pedestrian than anyone could have predicted. The plot elements are stock, and their execution is perfunctory at best. Two brothers in a triad, a girl who disapproves of the thug life, drugs imported from China, gang wars … all familiar, and yet all mishandled. The fast-paced montages are more disorienting than energetic, the story either spends too much or too little time on its own plot points, and there’s not much here to distinguish Revenge of the Green Dragons from others of the same ilk. (The Chinese ethnicity of the characters would be noteworthy … if I hadn’t watched so many Chinese gangster movies a decade or two ago.) Seeing Martin Scorsese as executive producer generates even higher expectations that the result can’t match. While some of the direction has its moments, the rest of the film doesn’t distinguish itself. As far as the acting goes, Ray Liotta sleepwalks through a familiar supporting role, while Shuya Chang and Eugenia Yuan each provide some welcome counterpoint (in their own way) to the story’s male-centric muddle. Revenge of the Green Dragons, to put it bluntly, is a bore, and a substandard treatment of promising material. Maybe it’s shackled too tightly to its “inspired by true events” origins. Maybe it’s strapped for budget. Maybe it’s just a mediocre production, destined to be forgotten like so many other criminal dramas.

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