Picks and Pans Review: Year of the Dragon

UPDATED 08/26/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 08/26/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT

Optimists will note that director Michael Cimino saved $20 million or so on this movie. While it took him $40 million to make Heaven's Gate, he managed to trash this equally chaotic, foolish film for a reported $18 million. Be grateful for small favors, because that's all you're going to get. The story, taken from a 1981 novel by Robert Daley, concerns an impossibly ruthless young gang lord in Manhattan's Chinatown and the impossibly determined cop who is out to clean up 100 years' worth of crime in a couple of days. All right, so it's a little like The Godfather Meets Fu Manchu. But Cimino and screenwriter Oliver (Scarface) Stone have turned a workable idea into a cinematic version of chop suey. Nothing that happens is remotely plausible. The cop, played with noble but ultimately futile intensity by Mickey (The Pope of Greenwich Village) Rourke, can hardly take a step without running into a wild shootout, knifing, garroting or brawl. In his quieter moments he just discovers bodies. The Hong Kong-born John (Iceman) Lone, as the ambitious gangster, is so relentlessly evil he makes the devil seem like a pretty nice fellow; at one point Lone has to brandish the head of a rival he has just disposed of. It's an embarrassingly bad scene, and not just because the head looks like a sack of potatoes with hair. The Japanese-Dutch model Ariane, 21, plays a glamorous Chinese-American TV newscaster who gets involved in an unconvincing affair with the slovenly Rourke. Hers may be the worst performance since Mamie Van Doren's in Sex Kittens Go to College. The only thing that seems right is the crowded, uneasy Chinatown atmosphere (though the film was shot mostly on sets in North Carolina). That's hardly enough to redeem a movie that is often so inept it's funny. Mike, have you thought of driving a bus or becoming a piano tuner or otherwise doing something useful? (R)

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