<p>Year of the Dragon (DVD)</p><p>A tough cop barely coping with unresolved psychological trauma from theViet Nam War . . . A ruthless drug lord who grew up in the alleys ofHong Kong . . . And a beautiful television reporter caught between theher life in Manhattan and the Chinese culture she left behind. All threewill be bound together by a lethal struggle as the police battle thecrime of New York's Chinatown in The Year of the Dragon. Academy Awardwinner Michael Cimino (The Deer Hunter) directs this raw, stylishthriller from a screenplay co-written with Academy Award winner OliverStone (Born on the Fourth of July, Platoon). Viet Nam War veteranStanley White (Mickey Rourke--Diner, Body Heat) is the most decoratedcop in the history of the New York Police Department. But when Whiteinfiltrates New York's Chinatown to fight its violent street gangs, hediscovers the gangs are but one arm of a violent criminal empire headedby Joey Tai.</p>
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Redemption for director Michael Cimino and burgeoning stardom for actor Mickey Rourke were on the agenda when Year of the Dragon was released in 1985, and even if those things didn't quite come to pass, the result was nevertheless an entertaining, at times even compelling film. Cimino, seven years removed from his Oscar triumph The Deer Hunter and five years past the debacle that was (and still is) Heaven's Gate, made a move back into the mainstream with this violent tale about New York's Chinatown, where gangs and heroin-dealing Chinese "triads" hold sway--at least until police captain Stanley White comes on the scene, fiercely determined to put the bad guys out of business. As portrayed by Rourke, White is arrogant, boorish, and bullheaded, a thoughtless jerk who puts anyone who cares about him in mortal danger, all of which we're supposed to forgive because he served in Vietnam and is so righteously intent on doing his job. Problem is, White is almost completely unlikable, rendering his relationships with his long-suffering wife (Caroline Kava) and his TV reporter girlfriend (a wooden Ariane) implausible in the extreme. Add to that a script (by Cimino and Oliver Stone) filled with stilted, macho dialogue and a level of facile racism and sexism that would be unacceptable by new millennium standards, and you've got a tough sell. Still, Cimino knows how to direct the action sequences, and he's able to sustain a good level of tension as the story builds toward its inevitable confrontation between White and young crime lord Joey Tai (John Lone, channeling Al Pacino in The Godfather: Part II). And the aftermath? Cimino made only four movies in the ensuing twenty years, none of them exactly blockbusters, while Rourke sank into a self-inflicted oblivion from which he has yet to recover. Not exactly the hoped-for outcome, but neither of them should be ashamed to have Year of the Dragon on his resume. --Sam Graham
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