Picks and Pans Review: Golden Gate

updated 02/07/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/07/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

Matt Dillon, Bruno Kirby, Joan Chen

Full of beans and full of himself, Dillon is a freshly minted FBI agent, class of 1952, determined to make it with the pretty girls and to make bossman J. Edgar Hoover proud. But Dillon, who always looks like a guy just now grasping a joke everyone else got 10 minutes ago, doesn't start off on the right fool. When he and his partner (Kirby) are assigned the task of ferreting out communists in San Francisco's Chinatown, Dillon can't make his trumped-up charges against a local laundryman (Tzi Ma) stick. Shamed, he tries again and snares Tzi Ma for organizing a local campaign to send money to impoverished relatives in "Red" China.

Released from prison after 10 years, Tzi Ma hurls an ancient curse al Dillon, who tries to expiate his guilt by befriending the man's daughter (the quietly effective Chen). Only a child at the lime of the trial, Chen has no awareness of the role Dillon played in ruining her father's life; easy then for her to fall in love with this, kindly stranger. But when she learns the truth, Chen seeks revenge.

Though well-intentioned, Golden Gate has a serious problem of tone: One minute it's all film-noir moodiness, now it's Joy Luck Club mystic, now a love story, now social drama, always an unsubtle muddle. The G-men are reduced to such racist, sexist stereotypes—they actually say, "Damn, I hate due process," and "She can fry my wonton anytime she wants"—that one has the sense of stumbling into a Naked Gun sequel, albeit, regrettably, without the presence of Leslie Nielsen. (R)

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