Monday, August 17, 2009

Year of the Dragon

After the disastrous reception of Heaven's Gate (1980), Michael Cimino had to wait five years to direct another picture, and like Spike Lee's recent Inside Man (2006), Year of the Dragon (1985) seems intended to show that Cimino could still deliver the goods--that is, make a perfectly conventional cop movie. Ironically, it was only once Cimino abandoned the languorous pacing and Visconti-like spectacle of The Deer Hunter (1978) and Heaven's Gate that he became a mannerist. The plot, with Mickey Rourke as an honest cop taking on corruption in Chinatown, is so threadbare that it's hard to think of anything else besides style as you're watching it. I don't mean to imply that the project is impersonal; in fact, all of Cimino's usual thematic hang-ups have been inelegantly ladled onto the standard genre script, so that the hero, a war veteran of Eastern European descent, keeps saying, "This is just like Vietnam!" Cimino also sets some scenes in Thailand, where parts of The Deer Hunter were shot, and he even manages to work in some mandolin music. It's the sort of film where you can talk about Cimino putting his stamp on the material because all of his auteurist flourishes feel so inorganic.

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