Review: Chinese American gangs fight in ‘Revenge of the Green Dragons’

‘Revenge of the Green Dragons’
A scene from “Revenge of the Green Dragons.”
(A24 Films)

“Revenge of the Green Dragons” — executive produced by Martin Scorsese and co-directed by Andrew Lau, whose “Infernal Affairs” was remade as “The Departed” by Scorsese — recounts the real-life turf war among Chinese American gangs in Queens, N.Y., in the 1980s and early ‘90s.

The Green Dragons gang plucks fresh-off-the-boat types from school while they’re young and impressionable, and then turns them into delinquents. After a particularly brutal initiation, Sonny (Justin Chon of the “Twilight” series) and Steven (Kevin Wu, a.k.a. KevJumba on YouTube and former contestant on “The Amazing Race”) rise through the ranks.

As competition intensifies in the underworld, gangs raise the stakes by smuggling humans and drugs alike, all to diminishing returns. Authorities turn a blind eye until a white bystander dies in the crossfire.

Fredric Dannen’s reportage, which appeared in a 1992 issue of the New Yorker and serves as the film’s basis, contains lurid details that leap off the page in a cinematic way. The “Dragons” script by Michael Di Jiacomo and co-director Andrew Loo preserves many, but few register on-screen. Their co-opting a linear structure and a self-serious voice-over also make the proceedings seem like so much posturing.


That said, the representation of Asian American men as hot-blooded toughies in the film does put a dent in the omnipresent nerdy eunuch stereotype and the model-minority myth.


“Revenge of the Green Dragons.”

MPAA rating: R for strong violence, language, drug use and sexual content.


Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle’s NoHo 7, North Hollywood.

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