Revenge of the Green Dragons Review – One Explosive Gangsta Film

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"Revenge of the Green Dragons," from IMGlobal and A24, resurrects the New York Gang films during the influx of Chinese immigrants and the rise of gang warfare with a  masterpiece depiction, hot with sharp dialogue, stunning in authenticity.

 

The life on the mean streets got a little meaner as Academy Award winning director Martin Scorsese joined the film as Executive Producer presenting the true story of the influx of Chinese gang control and dominance in flushing Queens during the late 1980's.

"Revenge of the Green Dragons," stars Justin Chon, Kevin Wu, Harry Shum, Jr., Eugenia Yuan, Leonard Wu, Shuya Chang, Jin Au-Yueng and Ray Liotta as FBI Agent Michael Bloom.

Adapted for the screen by Michael Di Jiacomo and Andrew Loo, "Revenge of the Green Dragons," is directed by Loo and Andew Lau and is based on an article by Fredric Dannen.

The "Revenge of the Green Dragons," tells the story of two boys, smuggled by the Snakehead into America, Sonny, played by Justin Chon and Steven, played by Kevin Wu who on one fateful day became brothers as the Snakehead, played by Eugenia Yuan, joined them forever.

The edict, "if he dies you die" sealed the fate as the two boys became inseparable brothers, bound by more than family as they navigated a new country, the treacherous gang filled neighborhoods, hoping to fly low under the radar.

An unfortunate stomach sickness becomes the catalyst for indoctrination with Sonny going missing for a few days during which he becomes one of the youngest members of the notorious Green Dragons.

When he returns, his transformation is noticeable as the boy with childhood imaginations, freedoms, and  beliefs, is replaced with the man child, the baby faced boy armed with powerful protection, weapons, unlimited cash and the freedom to live however he desires.

In a powerful moment, the two brothers meet again, the man child who extends the rare invitation for a new life.

Recounting the story of Snake Head, the dragon lady who single handedly ran a multi-million dollar human trafficking smuggling operation that brought in illegal's at 30K a head holding them hostage in indentured slavery and servitude until the debt was paid.

Protection for the disenfranchised became the responsibility of the local leadership, who developed into street gangs to handle the influx of short cuts to the American dream including drug smuggling, gambling, prostitution, loan sharking and money laundering as the NYPD had little time and less concern for the bananas' who showed up littering the clean streets with their language, bad habits and dirty ways.

A dead china man brought little attention as the Green Dragons explained during cult indoctrination, as there are four ways to a clean kill; a drop gun, only Chinese, leave no witnesses and most importantly never a white man.

This is where "Revenge of the Green Dragons" shifts, the boys are taught to be child mercenaries, street runners, collection muscle, pint sized killers with the respect of a seasoned Don.

It is about this time when we met FBI agent, Michael Bloom played by Ray Liotta. Stepping over a uncaring supervisor, FBI Deputy Director Sam Higgins played by Geoff Pierson, who doesn't really have the time or inclination to investigate the human trafficking, who really cares if a boatload of Chinese end up dead, he does however care when the Paul, played by Harry Shum, Jr., decides to up the game and smuggle heroin.

Bloom gets the green light to begin his investigation; a scene similar to "American Gangster" which one comes to understand is the simplest way to connect the dots in any investigation is to post all the intersection points, which begins with a single photo, that of Snakehead.

I went to the screening with expectation. As a connoisseur of the gang films and Martin Scorsese I expected the fast moving, high octane, over the top no restraint portrayal of the lifestyle of one of the most notorious Chinese New York Gangs, I wasn't disappointed.

I endorse responsibility in filmmaking, which is, I believe an art that the editor and director though collaboration decide which scenes maintain the story without gratuitous blood, gore, violence and especially sexual violence towards women or children.

Loo and Lau were somehow able to bring the powerful film to the screen, filled with authentic gang rituals, lives and lifestyles maintaining the commitment to the truth of life in Flushing, Queens which included the alarming violence.

I've seen many films where there is less gun violence and more splatter which is, I think is as unsettling, as the continued violence. When the blood is necessary to punctuation, the directors provide a tight shot, and when it is an overview of the event, the powerful sound and long shot of bodies falling and little blood is the method of presentation.

There are several scenes of graphic violence against women which are upsetting and deeply disturbing; one could feel the room tense up as the media, as transfixed as movie goers, watched.

Stepping back from the actual scene one understand this life of gang loyalty supersedes any past life loyalties with family, friends, loves and lovers who are now, as all the information of the life shared, expendable.

"Revenge of the Green Dragons" is not Bruce Lee, no high flying martial arts moves; it is modernized Smith & Wesson, Saturday Night Special take no prisoners film filled with serious violence.

Andrew Loo and Andew Lau, have created one bad ass gangsta film. The screenplay is brilliant. Collectively the cast unleashed megawatt energy with individual world class performances.

"Revenge of the Green Dragons" presents a powerful testament to filmmaking.

"Revenge of the Green Dragons" is playing in select cities. Check local listings.

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