Directed by Michael Cimino (The Deer Hunter, Heaven's Gate), this 1985 film starred Mickey Rourke as Stanely White, a New York City police official put in charge of the Chinatown area, just in time for a gang war to break out. White, who is of Polish-American heritage, is a Vietnam vet with some major prejudice against Asians. This becomes a burden when he has to investiage the gangland slayings that have led Joey Tai (played by John Lone) to the top of the Triad ladder.
The movie became quite a controversy during its release as many Chinese-Americans picketed cinemas that were showing the film. Many felt that the racial epithets being spitted out by White's character were reflecting the personal vendettas of the screenplay writer (Oliver Stone, also a Vietnam vet). However, once you view the movie, you realize that the character of Stanley White is really no different than that of Popeye Doyle from "The French Connection" - a very conflicted character who isn't the perfect cop that many people visualize in their dreams.
Nevertheless, the movie turned out to be a mixed bag. Cimino is prone to using panoramic visuals and he does so here in some scenes (like Joey Tai's visit with a Thai drug lord in the jungles) with somewhat good results. However, the film is a very dark, very violent, and morally ambiguous story and can be draining to many viewers. It's a tough watch, especially for somebody who is of Chinese descent (like me) and has to listen to the copious use of "chink" throughout the film but the film is an above average police story.
Year of the Dragon
- Stanley White
- Joey Tai
- Tracy Tzu
- Angelo Rizzo
- Connie White
Directed by Michael Cimino
Screenplay by Oliver Stone and Michael Cimino
Based on the novel by Robert Daley
Note: On the Chinese zodiac, the next Year of the Dragon won't be until 2012.