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Green Dragon

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Green Dragon

Starring: Forest Whitaker, Kieu Chinh
Director: Timothy Linh Bui
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 111 Minutes
Release Date: May 2002
Genre: Foreign

*Also starring: Kathleen Luong, Don Duong, Billinjer Tran

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

As the bus pulls into the refugee camp, we sit frozen, carefully examining the eyes of every woman getting off. Hoping against hope, we look for some glimmer of recognition of Minh Pham (Trung Hieu Nguyen), the little boy on the other side of the chain link fence. He and his mother were separated in Vietnam, and, although his uncle, Tai Tran (Don Duong), assures Minh that his mother will make it to America, we are sadly pessimistic.

Set at Camp Pendleton, California, in 1975, GREEN DRAGON tells the story of the last escapees from Saigon just before it fell to the Communists. Now in the country that prides itself as a melting pot, these émigrés have come to seek their new fortunes. Their dreams vary widely. One is excited that minimum wage window washers make over two whole dollars an hour. Another wants to earn enough to buy a Cadillac. And the one with the most grandiose ambition plans on creating a "Little Saigon" area complete with shops and restaurants. This man is a convincing entrepreneur who looks to be on the fast track status to become a multimillionaire.

But none of the men touch our hearts in the way that Minh does. In addition to finding his mother, he has only one other interest -- Mighty Mouse. He likes nothing better than staying up late at night and "reading" comic books under the cover with the help of a flashlight. Since the words are in English, he has to rely on the images to tell the story. Little Minh bonds with big Addie (Forest Whitaker), the camp's cook, since Addie is an artist who draws Minh's head on Mighty Mouse's body. (A fairly wooden Patrick Swayze plays Sergeant Jim Lance, the soldier in charge of the day to day running of the camp.)

Written by the THREE SEASONS's writers, the brothers Timothy and Tony Bui, and directed by Timothy -- Tony directed THREE SEASONS -- the film has the same slow, melodic pacing of their first effort. What is missing this time are THREE SEASONS's arresting visuals. Camp Pendleton is a relatively harsh environment, so this movie finds no poetry in the setting. Although tender and touching, the movie would have benefited from a little more dramatic tension and some more editing. A crisper and more focused hour-and-a-half version would have been appreciated.

GREEN DRAGON runs 1:55. The film is in Vietnamese with English subtitles and in English. It is rated PG-13 for "some disturbing situations, nudity and language" and would be acceptable for kids around 11 and up.

Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes

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