Year of the Dragon

Hannah Kozak on Year of the Dragon


Using unprecedented degrees of violence, young Joey Tai becomes the head of Chinese mafia in New York and undisputed leader of the Chinese community…

Release Year: 1985

Rating: 6.7/10 (6,283 voted)

Michael Cimino

Stars: Mickey Rourke, John Lone, Ariane

Using unprecedented degrees of violence, young Joey Tai becomes the head of Chinese mafia in New York and undisputed leader of the Chinese community. Stanley White, the most decorated cop in New York, who hates Asian people since his service in Vietnam, is put in charge of Chinatown. Both men are prone to breaking long-established rules and both men are unlikely to make compromises with each other, which leads to unavoidable and bloody conflict.

Writers: Robert Daley, Oliver Stone


Mickey Rourke

Stanley White

John Lone

Joey Tai


Tracy Tzu

Leonard Termo

Angelo Rizzo

Raymond J. Barry

Louis Bukowski

(as Ray Barry)

Caroline Kava

Connie White

Eddie Jones

William McKenna

Joey Chin

Ronnie Chang

Victor Wong

Harry Yung

K. Dock Yip

Milton Bin

Hon-Lam Pau

Fred Hung

(as Pao Han Lin)

Way Dong Woo


Jimmy Sun


Daniel Davin

Francis Kearney

Mark Hammer

Commissioner Sullivan

It isn't the Bronx or Brooklyn. It isn't even New York. It's Chinatown…and it's about to explode.

Release Date: 16 August 1985

Filming Locations: Bangkok, Thailand

Box Office Details

Budget: $24,000,000


Opening Weekend: $4,093,079
(18 August 1985)
(982 Screens)

Gross: $18,707,466

Technical Specs


Did You Know?


The exterior shots of New York City were actually sets built in North Carolina. Said sets proved realistic enough to fool even Stanley Kubrick, who attended the movie's premiere. Co-writer/director Michael Cimino actually had to convince the Bronx-born Kubrick this film's exteriors were shot at a sound-stage and not on location.


Crew or equipment visible:
Scene in Stanley's kitchen, where the sink pipe bursts and water spouts on Stanley – water also gets on the camera lens.


[first lines]

Tracy Tzu:
Captain McKenna, any leads in the murder of Jackie Wong?

William McKenna:
Nothing at this time.

Tracy Tzu:
Do you think this killing means there's some kind of war going on in the Chinatown Tongs?

William McKenna:
No, I don't. This is basically a situation where the youth gangs are lashing out at the establishment. The community is cooperating. The situation's under control.

User Review

Cimino, Rourke, and Lone at the top of their game

Rating: 10/10

Following the Heaven's Gate debacle it must have been questionable if
Michael Cimino would ever helm another epic film. Having shot The Deer
Hunter and Heaven's Gate on such a grand scale, you expect that type of
film from Cimino. Well, he was given one last shot to work the big
screen using his considerable talents to create one last masterpiece.
If there is a Michael Cimino trilogy it's his three epics The Deer
Hunter, Heaven's Gate, and Year of the Dragon. In all honesty Hollywood
does not make a lot of films like these so when they come along they
are something special. These are films that show Hollywood at it's
best, stretching, pushing the limits, and trying to create something
huge fueled by a clear artistic vision. It may fall flat, as Heaven's
Gate did, but the risk can be exhilarating. Looking back on Heaven's
Gate now, many critics find it to be one hell of a film. There's a
simple reason for that, they just don't make 'em like this much any
more. So, in retrospect the Hurculean effort now looks refreshing.

Year of the Dragon is a powerhouse film. Where Heaven's Gate meandered
on the plains, Year of the Dragon charges across the screen. I believe
this was powered by Cimino probably giving his best effort to entertain
as well as create on a grand scale. The result is a breathtaking ride
and one of the best cop films we'll ever witness. Rourke as Stanley
White is in his prime 80's form. There was no doubt about it, in the
80's the camera loved Mickey Rourke. If he had not gone off track it
makes you wonder what could have been. His is not the only great
performance in the film. John Lone as his prey is nothing short of
magnificent. He is everything Al Pacino was in the Godfather films. I
would say his performance owes a debt to Pacino and watching the film I
wondered if he had used him as a model for Joey Tai. These three
elements alone could be enough to make great film, two great actors
dueling on screen and a director giving his best effort.

It doesn't stop there though. They are working from an Oliver Stone
script which is beautifully composed to blur the lines between good and
evil. It's not as simple as good guy and bad guy. These characters are
fully fleshed out and complex. White may be the cop but he is deeply
flawed as a human being. This script doesn't pander to the audience and
you will not like Stanley White much of the time. Joey Tai is not pure
evil. He follows a moral code and is an honorable man. This kind of
writing is not for everyone and some may be put off or confused by the
nature of these characters but that's what makes for great cinema.

Not only are the leads good but the supporting cast is also fantastic.
Kava as Connie White brings nice weight to her performance as Stanley's
wife. Raymond Barry and Victor Wong are excellent as are the entire
supporting cast. There is one often noted exception. Ariane as Tracy
Tzu the reporter and White's fling is very wooden. What causes her to
stand out is the fact that all the other actors are so good. I believe
this was her first film and she is out of her element. She just doesn't
have the chops to keep up. Her performance doesn't drag down the film
but it does stick out whenever she's on screen.

1985 saw a couple of fantastic cop films in this and To Live and Die in
LA, which not surprisingly was directed by another great William
Friedkin. Films like these are hard to come by. We were lucky to see
Friedkin's film released as a special edition DVD. Year of the Dragon
has been sold by MGM to Warner Brothers and now sits in limbo. It would
be unfortunate for films like this and Sidney Lumet's Prince of the
City (1981) to sit and rot on some shelf. The work of directors like
Cimino, Friedkin, and Lumet should not be ignored. It's interesting
that each of them made a fantastic film about cops in the 80's. Two of
the three films though appear to be lost. Let's hope someone rescues
them to DVD.