Year of the Dragon [based on the novel by Robert Daley] is never as important as director Michael Cimino thinks it is, but there’s a fair amount of solid action and gunplay, all set securely in the intricate, mysterious enigma of New York’s Chinatown and its ties to worldwide drug-dealing.
Unquestionably, Cimino’s eye for detail and insistence thereon has paid off in his impressive recreation of Chinatown at producer Dino De Laurentiis’ studios in North Carolina. Crammed with an array of interesting characters, including the extras in the background, Dragon brims with authenticity.
Assigned to Chinatown to clear up a problem of murderous youth gangs, Mickey Rourke quickly proves to be one of those lone renegade cops that fiction favors more than real-life. Beyond the teen toughs, Rourke wants to undo a criminal system rooted in a culture for thousands of years.
Beyond the color and the corpses, though, Cimino fails to focus on an idea and stick with it. He ends up playing with significant thoughts in between awkward lessons in Chinese history, losing most of them as they filter through half-baked resentments Rourke has left over from the Vietnam war. Performances, though, are generally excellent and Dragon certainly never drags.