Directed by Michael Cimino • 1985 • United States
Starring Mickey Rourke, John Lone, Ariane
Introduction: This film has been programmed as part of the series Hollywood Chinese, a survey on the history of Chinese representation in American cinema, curated by filmmaker Arthur Dong. He notes: “YEAR OF THE DRAGON exemplifies Hollywood’s never-ending addiction to stories of vice and violence in America’s Chinatowns. This racist and sexist portrayal of New York’s Chinatown caused a national uproar, with protests by Asian Americans so large-scale that distributors agreed to include a disclaimer on the film, disavowing any adherence to reality.” For further context, we recommend watching Mr. Dong’s series introduction and his documentary HOLLYWOOD CHINESE, now playing on the Channel.
Michael Cimino directs this raw, stylish thriller from a screenplay cowritten with Oliver Stone. Though grappling with unresolved trauma, Vietnam vet Stanley White (Mickey Rourke) is the most decorated cop in the history of the NYPD. When White infiltrates New York’s Chinatown to fight its street gangs, he discovers the gangs are but one arm of a violent criminal empire headed by the ruthless drug lord Joey Tai (John Lone). To expose Tai’s underworld enterprises, the married White exploits his relationship with beautiful television reporter Tracy Tzu (Ariane). But as Tzu forces White to confront the demons of his past, their fight with Tai erupts in violence that rocks the streets of Chinatown.