If I was an actor starring in Revenge of the Green Dragons and I was watching the final cut of the film, I would be feeling cheesed by the filmmakers. Well, maybe if I wasn’t Harry Shum Jr., the dancing charmer from Glee who takes his acting to a more dramatic level with this crime film. If I was him, I would be feeling proud that I had pulled off a such a good performance and survived in a movie this heavy-handed.
Other than Harry Shum Jr.’s portrayal of an elusive mob boss, Andrew Lau and Andrew Loo’s Revenge of the Green Dragons offers the same ole’ same ole’. While inspired by true events, the film showcases tired gang politics between several groups in 1980’s New York. Just as gang violence is becoming a major problem, immigration numbers exceedingly boom and spill over causing the inflated population to become more than a blip.
Two young friends, Sonny and Steven, are seen as outsiders and are brought in to join the merciless Green Dragons. They grow up together, witness horrific events, are forced to carry out deadly objectives, and soon see their criminal lives spiral out of control. Meanwhile, FBI agent Michael Bloom (played by a sedated Ray Liotta, probably wondering why he’s playing yet another cop role in a gritty crime saga) hunts around to infiltrate the gang activity after evaluating grisly acts.
The reason some actors may be feeling disappointed when watching the movie is because they’ll discover how Lau and Loo have allowed their hyper-kinetic style to do most of the talking. The style reflects the seedy life of a gang member from a newly infused immigrant’s perspective, but it shows more of the filmmakers’ distrust towards their actors; doubting the cast could carry out those specific emotions from their story.
Lau and Loo eventually calm down, but the tropes remain in tact. Nothing surprises the audience since it all feels so familiar, and the heinous acts that follow are simply upsetting since the filmmakers linger on so much of it.
Revenge of the Green Dragons has Martin Scorsese’s stamp of approval on it – he serves as an executive producer. But, since Andrew Lau was behind 2002’s Infernal Affairs (a film that inspired Scorsese’s Oscar-winning remake The Departed), this might be Scorsese’s way of saying “thank you”. Then again, I’m reminded of a song lyric conceived by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz that reads: you say it best, when you say nothing at all.