Dir. Andrew Lau, Andrew Loo
Screenplay: Michael Di Jiacomo
Executive Producer: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Ray Liotta, Justin Chon, Kevin Wu, Harry Shum Jr, Shuya Chang, Geoff Pierson
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Some pictures bring a solid pedigree to the table so that you're pretty much guaranteed a mega-quality product. Revenge of the Green Dragons is registered to an extremely prestigious stud book (the gold standard of registries in animal husbandry). One half of the picture's directing team is the prolific dynamo who launched the 2002 Hong Kong crime hit Infernal Affairs and its prequel and sequel, which, in turn, eventually yielded the American remake The Departed, Martin Scorsese's longtime-coming Oscar-winner as Best Director. Here, adding to the pedigree, Scorsese also serves as Executive Producer of this sprawling saga of Asian gangland warfare in NYC during the 1980s.
Alas, "pedigree" in the case of this new film is best linked to animal husbandry rather than anything else since Revenge of the Green Dragons is a mangy, drooling dog that's more of the mongrel rather than purebred variety.
There isn't a single original element in this ploddingly familiar tale of childhood immigrants who grow up as members of a powerful mob dynasty. Michael Di Jiacomo (whose own dubious pedigree is linked to a few obscure indie pictures) is the purported writer of the dull screenplay which trots out the usual blend of mixed loyalties, betrayals and excuses for competently-helmed sequences involving a surfeit of gunplay - none of which has much impact since the characters aren't even interesting enough to be called cardboard cutouts. The movie is full of expository narration, all meant to infuse the picture with a sense of history and epic sweep, but serving little more than to provide opportunities for posturing and over-scored, lame-duck montages of the most bargain-basement-Scorsese kind.
Ultimately, Revenge of the Green Dragons proves that no matter what the pedigree, aberrations are always a distinct possibility. This one is especially hobbled and deformed. It doesn't even have a particularly engaging spirit so it can be pitied.
This doggie is fair game for euthanasia.
And speaking of assisted suicide, the film features an especially egregious misuse of a pasty, disinterested Ray Liotta (Henry Hill from Scorsese's Goodfellas) who somnambulistically shuffles through the proceedings as an FBI agent who, on paper, is intent on breaking the mob, but in practice just looks like he needs another drink or snort.
It'd be great to see a good, kick-ass hybrid of Asian and American criminal shenanigans. This, however, is most assuredly not it.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: * One-Star
Revenge of the Green Dragons is a Special Presentation at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival and distributed in Canada via VVS Films. For tix, times and venues, visit the TIFF website HERE.
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