Revenge of the Green Dragons

| January 13, 2015

With Martin Scorsese’s name attached as an Executive Producer, Andrew Lau and Andrew Loo’s Revenge of the Green Dragons seemed like a perfect way for the two brilliant, Hong Kong filmmakers to break into the U.S. market. The film centers around the Green Dragons, a Chinese street gang that ran extortion rackets and drug running in the 80’s and 90’s of Queens, New York. The film follows two young immigrant boys, Steven (Kevin Wu) and Sonny (Justin Chon), as they are forced into gang life and rise through the ranks of the Dragons. After a brutal murder that places the two best friends at odds, Sonny decides that its best to take matters into his own hands and work with the Detective Chang (Jin Auyeung) and FBI Agent Michael Bloom (Ray Liotta) to put away the Green Dragons for good. Even with an amazing cast and stellar cinematography, Revenge of the Green Dragons pitfalls into too many cliche, gangster film tropes and a crappy, plot twist ending that mar the film completely.

The cast work with everything that they have and do an amazing job with their portrayals. From Justin Chon’s Sonny, to even the minor characters, like Snakehead Mama, played by Eugenia Yuan, do wonders with the material at hand. The problems in Revenge lie in the fact that the film manages to place plenty of the characters in situations that we’ve all seen before. Killing someone in front of your parents? Check! Seeing your best friend murdered, leaving you to do nothing? Check! Its these instances that make one feels as though Revenge is just another dime a dozen gangster film, which is a shame because we’ve never seen a story like this before. Just like how Justin Lin’s Better Luck Tomorrow provided an outlet for young Asian-American teens, Revenge of the Green Dragons could have been that immigrant story, about the disillusionment of the American dream, with this new, young cast providing that. There are a few moments where this happens, like Kevin Wu’s reaction after betraying his uncle for some money, is one of the most honest scenes and shows the potential of what Revenge could have been. The ending of the film relies too heavily on a ridiculous plot twist and feels like Infernal Affairs, but with no real reward. Its as if the Hollywood producers were simply trying to emulate that feeling, without having any actual stakes or true character motives as to why this would actually happen.

The video on the Blu-Ray from Lionsgate comes in an AVC encoded HD transfer, with an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The video looks crystal clear and showcases some amazing cinematography from Martin Ahlgren. Ahlgren manages to recreate Queens, New York, with a green tinge, that give it the same feel as the blue hues embodied in Lau’s Infernal Affairs. Everything from the production design to the editing look superb from this HD transfer, that at least make the film aesthetically pleasing, while its running through similar paces as tons of other gangster films. The audio on the disc comes in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, that intermittently goes back and forth to Cantonese with English subtitles. The mix itself is great, with a fantastic use of panning and sound design to generate some intensity during the action sequences. My only issues with the soundscape of the film, only stem from a generic rock score used from time to time and a few stock sound effects from sound libraries that are used, that really stand out like a sore thumb. The extras on the disc include interviews with the cast, an interview with Production Designer, Wing Lee, an interview with Costume Designer, Elizabeth Vastola, full length commentary by Andrew Lau and Andrew Loo, deleted scenes and trailers for other Lionsgate films. The interview segments showcase the brilliant technical work that went into Revenge, that no doubt make it to the final product, especially the segments about Production Design and Costumes.

Revenge of the Green Dragons, while having a fantastic cast and entertaining premise, gets bogged down by a lazy script and poor story decisions that ultimately end up as a waste of time.

About the Author:

is a graduate from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Audio for Visual Media. He works as a freelance location sound mixer, boom operator, sound designer, and writer in his native Chicago. He's an avid collector of films, comics, and anime.
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