years of MPM asking me "Have you seen it yet...have you see it?!"
I finally tracked it down - on Hong Kong DVD of all places - and after
giving it several airings. I gotta say this is one cool movie despite
The plot by now is cliché. Misfit outsider cop wages war on ruthless
villain (who in this movie is a member of the New York Triads). What
makes this movie above average are a number of things...
For one, Mickey Rourke's braggadocio performance as racist cop Stanley
White (aided by Oliver Stone's venomous dialogue) works really well
- especially in these far too politically correct times. His opening
monologue, as the new Police Chief of Chinatown, to the Triad leaders
John Lone is cool as ice playing Joey Tai the wannabe triad boss, whacking
out everyone in his path, whilst still finding time to put his people
through college. He's comes across like an immaculately dressed Chinese
Michael Corleone. In fact they could have easily made the whole film
just about him.
Add to that some great direction from Michael Cimino, one gets the feeling
that a lot of money got spent on this. They simply don't make crime
movies as epic as this anymore. Indeed worth the price alone, especially
now it's finally available in a great looking transfer, is the luminous
(2.35:1) 'scope photography. Shot with true anamorphic lenses, non of
this (all too common these days) Super35 pseudo-shit, this is one beautiful
movie. Whether it’s the interior shots or on location every thing looks
larger than life. The steadicam shots following people around bustling
streets and back alleys are particularly memorable.
Now for the bad news....
Anyone who's ever read a review of this movie would no doubt have heard
about the poor performance by Araine. She plays a Chinese American reporter
who Rourke's racist cop falls for despite himself. Well I went in expecting
the worst and guess what!? I wasn't disappointed! To be fair her dry
monotonous delivery works fine when she's a TV reporter talking to camera,
but the same voice when talking to EVERYONE?!, Ughhh! It doesn't help
that her role was always going to be a particular difficult one to pull
off. Alas she just stinks up the movie every time she's on the screen.
Cimino might as well have cast Jar Jar Binks in the role!
(Edit: Having watched this film several times since writing this review
I've kind of got used to Araine's performance and she tends to blend
in more so than in the early viewings (as did Jar Jar I might add).
As I said, this is a cool movie despite its flaws, the music
is surprisingly non 80's (thus doesn't date it), there's some inspired
casting for smaller roles (a Mafia boss sans a voice box is one particular
standout), plus some hard hitting violence that one expects from movies
of this period, ok so it's a tad melodramatic at times, but still…
So in conclusion while no masterpiece this is still a criminally under
seen film that’s really worth picking up. I think Cimino was aiming
for a Chinese take on The Godfather and ended up falling in-between
Dirty Harry and Out for Justice!
DVD looks great, presented in the correct ratio of 2.35:1 and enhanced
for 16:9 TV's this will look mind-blowing to those people who've spent
years living with the P&S VHS release. I'll spare you the usual
rhetoric and bumf and just give you some screenshots to look at. Encoding
wise, I noticed no artifacts on my 32" 16:9 TV.
For a movie
made in 1985 this has no right to sound as good as it does. Dialogue
is always clear and locked to the center channel with music and sound
effects filling the front sound stage. Other than the opening New Year
celebrations with fire crackers going off in every speaker, I didn't
really notice any other split rear effects. However the soundtrack really
does have a kick (that would be lacking if it was only 2 channel Pro-Logic).
It's particular impressive during the opening restaurant massacre surrounding
you with gunshots and mayhem.
to all extents and purposes a DVD of the quality one would expect from
MGM in r1 land. In fact the only thing that stops this been released
there is the fact it' s dual encoded to Region 3 + 4. No extra's are
on the DVD apart from the interesting trailer (which is anamorphic too
tho' cropped to 1.85:1). Even the subtitles are great (unlike most native
HK DVDs) to the extend there's two English ones, one that just subs
the Chinese characters speaking, and one that subs the whole movie.
on MGM get your shit in order and get this DVD out, so the non multi-region
masses have an option to see this classic.
STOP PRESS: Our good
friends at HKFlix
are offering this at the low price of $17.95! So what you waiting for?