Year of the Dragon Presentation (Matthew Park and Steven Pankratz
Year of The Dragon/ (1985) is a Michael Cimino film adapted from a novel
of the same name. It tracks the conflict between two rising stars: a
determined detective, and a ruthless Chinatown crime boss. Its reception
was marred by controversy, as the Chinese Citizen’s Benevolent
Association protested the portrayal of Chinatown and its inhabitants.
The reaction was so strong that the studio’s president added a
disclaimer to the beginning of the movie in areas where the CCBA had
focused its attacks on the film. Regardless, the film went on to gross
Several distinct communities are portrayed in the film: the criminal
underworld of Chinatown, the police, and the South-East Asian drug
manufacturers. As the story unfolds, the two main characters are shown
to not clearly fall into any of these categories: Stanley, the
policeman, is constantly defying his superiors. Joey, the crime boss,
takes over his syndicate with help from street thugs. The conflict with
their own communities, and how that places them outside their comfort
zones, is a large part of the story when they come to fight each other.
Beyond the character-community interactions, there are
community-community interactions to consider as well. Would the
Chinatown crime scene be the same if the police and the criminals did
not interact as they did? Would Joey have to buy heroin from Asia if
there weren’t pressure from other gangs? The historical relationships
between these groups are interesting, and it continues to shape their
relations in the present time of the movie.
Finally, outside the sphere of the main conflict, we see how
community-individual interactions have shaped the lives of the main
characters. Joey, in his role as local don, is (ostensibly) a charitable
figure, doling out tuition money for needy college-bound youth. The fact
that he quickly corrupts the same students is another facet of his role
as crime boss. Stanley, descended from Polish immigrants, marries a
local woman. After years of stressed marriage, his involvement in the
Chinatown scene throws him together with a saucy reporter. His constant
separation from the normative influence of the police department allows
him to sever his connections with his wife, and take up with the
reporter. Would he have behaved like that if he hadn’t been so distanced
from his community?
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