Revenge of the Green Dragons

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Revenge of the Green Dragons Movie Poster Image
Vicious '80s gangs fight in graphically violent drama.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 94 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

None of note; characters participate in endless, remorseless, and gleeful acts of extreme iffiness.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sonny seems to have a conscience about his gang’s tactics, but he does little to stop them.

Violence

Bloody and gratuitous torture, executions, and sexual assaults. A finger is cut from a torture victim's hand. A gang member threatens to mutilate a bound young boy's genitals while others egg him on. A man is graphically stabbed to death. The camera closes in on a final twist of the knife in the victim's abdomen. 

Sex

Characters have sex in various degrees of undress. A breast is shown.

Language

Uncountable uses of "f--k," "s--t," and "motherf----r," as well as "a--hole" and "d--khead."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke tobacco and marijuana, the latter including 10-year-olds. Cocaine is snorted; heroin is smuggled. Gang members drink alcohol at parties.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Revenge of the Green Dragons is an intenseparade of torture and killings that isn't appropriate for children of any age. Rival 1980s Chinese gangs deal in human trafficking, extortion, drugs, and general just-for-fun mayhem. They forcibly recruit young children they’ve brought from China and teach them to kill. In the style of Hong Kong action movies, with slow-motion and stop-action killing sequences set to a lyrical and throbbing soundtrack, the mindless violence becomes numbing. Expect sexual assaults, mutilations, and murders carried out while friends watch approvingly. Smoking, drug use (including children smoking pot), and profanity ("f--k," "s--t," and more) are problematic as well. Expect graphic violence, sadism, corruption, disloyalty, and most other vices, with pretty much no redeeming message.

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What's the story?

Sonny loses his mother at age 10 while illegally crossing from China to New York to pursue the American dream. He's immediately assigned to be a kitchen slave at a sadistic taskmaster's Chinatown restaurant. Sonny briefly attends school, where his friend Steven is beaten and tortured by junior members of the Green Dragons, who then recruit him. Sonny reluctantly joins, too, partly in rebellion against his forced labor, and partly to be with his friend. The 10-year-olds are immediately seduced with drugs and guns and make their first kills long before puberty sets in. Sonny’s (played as an adult by Justin Chonsmall rebellions against the evil -- he vainly tells a girlfriend to get out of town before the gang kills her -- hardly constitute redemption, and the other players spew cynical rationalizations for their greed and violence. One gang leader justifies human trafficking, drug smuggling, and murder by paraphrasing Balzac: behind every great fortune lies a great crime. Goodfellas veteran Ray Liotta plays the FBI agent who, in the face of administrative resistance, insists that the bureau concern itself with Asian-on-Asian atrocities. But even if gang members end up being put away, what happens if the big fish (Harry Shum Jr.) eludes the net?

Is it any good?

It gets off to a solid start, with a compelling early narrative and good performances, but the energy ebbs as it lapses at times into clichéd characterizations. The soundtrack is often elegant and brilliantly matched to the images, giving a sense of the directors’ taut control over the material. But the over-artfulness also leads the filmmakers astray. Episodes of nearly balletic violence ultimately begin to stand alone as tableaux of disturbing artwork unconnected to the story. Rather than moving the plot along, it feels as if gory action sequences were shot just because it would be fun to dream them up.

Based on a magazine article about 1980s Chinese gangs, immigration, and lax law enforcement, REVENGE OF THE GREEN DRAGONS is co-directed by Andrew Loo and Andrew Lau, who directed Infernal Affairs -- on which Martin Scorsese based his The Departed. Scorsese executive produced this film as well; unsurprisingly, it feels like a stylistic mixture of his Goodfellas and a Hong Kong actioner. But in the end, without the humor and irony of Goodfellas, a weary viewer may find this film fizzling into pointlessness.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how violence can be used in movies to make an argument against violence in real life. Does that happen in Revenge of the Green Dragons? Do you think the violence is necessary to the plot?

  • Loyalty to friends is usually a virtue. Is loyalty to evil friends a virtue? Are there circumstances under which disloyalty can be a greater good?

  • Many of the movie's characters came illegally to America to make better lives. Some chose crime, and some were forced into it as children. Does the film take a position on whether they were better off here or in China?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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