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Year of the Dragon


After the late Michael Cimino burst onto the movie scene with "The Deer Hunter", and bankrupted United Artists with his follow up, "Heaven's Gate", he crafted some serviceable if eccentric thrillers.

1985 brought us YEAR OF THE DRAGON.

Mickey Rourke stars as NYC detective Stanley White. Tough, unbalanced and laser focused, White has his sights set on taking down the new young head of the Asian mafia, Joey Tai.

Tai is arrogant with both his triad brothers and any authority, disregarding decades of rules in how the relationships between them have worked.

In the midst of these two men's battle, investigate TV reporter Tracy Tzu wants the story of the year, while falling in and out of love with Stanley.

The good news is that John Lone (The Last Emperor) is terrific as Joey, always believable as a man willing to kill any ally or travel deep into the jungles of Asia in search of bigger, better drugs.

Rourke is also very good, in his own, non-traditional style and playing a very unlikable, sexist, violent, immoral character.

The very bad news arrives in the form of model Ariane as Tracy. In the history of film, her performance in this key role is legendarily bad. I'm talking Sofia Coppola in "Godfather III" bad.

Her emotional range spans inches and her acting talent fills thimbles. She is B A D.

It unfortunately cripples several key scenes of the film that are essential for us to buy into.

Anytime that Cimino keeps his film focused on Stanley and Tony's battle, or Joey's internal triad/Mafia negotiations, the film is strong and interesting. All to often, though, it slips into soap opera territory between Stanley and Tracy or Stanley and his long suffering wife and the film grinds to a halt.

Oliver Stone wrote the screenplay and its often compelling and full of Stone level envelope pushing.

This was yet another box office bust for Cimino, who slipped into deeper and deeper eccentricities in the years that followed.

Two thirds of the film are interesting and compelling, but the other third drops it down to a C.

If you need proof of Cimino's bizarre judgement, just try to sit through the end credits, which are scored to the singing of a c-level Asian night club singer instead of any part of David Mansfield's strong music score.

Just one of many head scratching choices....

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