American Chinatown

American Chinatown

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Today’s feature is an obscure flick called American Chinatown, from the writer and director of the ludicrous cult classic film, Miami Connection.

American Chinatown was written, directed, and produced by Woo-sang Park, who regularly credits himself under the pseudonym of Richard Park. His best known film by far is Miami Connection, but he made a handful of other low-budget movies from the 1970s through the 1990s, including  L.A. Streetfighters, Gang Justice, and Shaolin: The Blood Mission.

One of the cinematographers on American Chinatown was Maximo Munzi, who also shot Miami Connection for Woo-sang Park.

The team of producers for American Chinatown included Larry Larson (City Dragon), star Tae-joon Lee (Ninja Terminator), Simon Bibiyan (City Dragon, The Malibu Beach Vampires), and Moshe Bibiyan (Warrior of Justice, City Dragon).

The musical score and editing for American Chinatown was done by Ron Adler, who worked on a handful of other small movies like Invisible Temptation, The Secret Force, and City Dragon.

The American Chinatown cast is headlined by the late Robert Z’dar (Maniac Cop, Tango & Cash, Soultaker, Maniac Cop 2, Maniac Cop 3, Samurai Cop), and also features Tae-joon Lee (Ninja Terminator), Bobby Kim (Black Belt Angels, Deadly Kick, Mark of the Black Dragon), and Liat Goodson (Vice Girls, The Prince), along with a number of inexperienced and non-actors to fill out the cast.

The plot of American Chinatown centers around a gang war, during which a top enforcer unknowingly falls for his boss’s adopted sister. He has to figure out a way to reconcile his feelings for the woman with his loyalty to the gang, all while leading the charge in an ever-heating conflict with the cross-town rival criminal organization.

American Chinatown is also known as Chinatown 2, which is not to be confused with the actual sequel to Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (The Two Jakes), which released in 1990.

The reception to American Chinatown has been generally negative, though very few people have actually heard of it or seen it. It currently has an IMDb rating of 4.2, and has a Rotten Tomatoes average audience score of .5/5. However, less than 90 ratings of the movie have been recorded on the two sites combined.

Right out of the gate, American Chinatown starts with an attempted rape, followed up by some completely inaudible and indecipherable dialogue, which is about as bad of a start as you can possibly have for a movie. On top of that, the editing and cinematography for the sequence is also astoundingly terrible, to the point where is honestly difficult to tell what is actually happening. Eventually, a mysterious man stops the assault, kicks the would-be rapists a bunch, steals their wallets and clothes, and then lets them go on their way. I guess this is supposed to set up this fellow as a badass, but the whole thing plays out really strangely, and I don’t understand why he just let them meander on their merry way.

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The hero?

The acting in this movie is, across the board, just dreadful. Most movies at least have a bright spot somewhere in the cast, but that just isn’t the case here. I don’t know how this film was cast, but Robert Z’Dar is the only person who seems to know what acting even is, and that is a sad state of affairs for any film. The lead character’s love interest also has one of the most perplexing fake accents that I have ever heard in a movie, and I still can’t figure out exactly what it is supposed to be.

There are a couple of cool fight sequences spread throughout the movie, but they are all shot really poorly, so the talent of the stunt people is mostly wasted. Still, they are entertaining as the movie ever gets.

The music for American Chinatown, when it does bother to pop up, is ridiculous in the best way you could possibly hope for. It is always heavy on the synthesizers and funky beats, but suffers immensely from constantly disappearing for long periods of time, which is a damn shame.

One big problem with this film is the unlikability of the hero, who is frankly a complete asshat. I already covered how he allowed attempted rapists to wander away in the opening sequence (he does that again, by the way), but the rest of his interactions with his love interest for a good portion of the movie primarily consist of him berating her and trying to force her to leave him alone. I understand that the point is that he doesn’t want her to get wrapped up in the criminal world he lives in, but he really is a complete shit about it, though.

The whole movie has a disappointing lack of Robert Z’Dar in it, which I wasn’t exactly surprised about. He only pops up in a handful of scenes, and overall doesn’t get much time on screen when all is said and done. He does get the shit beaten out of him way more than I expected, though, particularly towards the end of the flick.

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The ending to American Chinatown feels like they didn’t quite finish the move. Basically, a fight sequence ends with a freeze frame and a fade to black, without any visual resolution for the story. Then again, maybe something was covered in the inaudible dialogue that I couldn’t make heads or tails of. In any case, it is both jarring and unsatisfying as a conclusion.

Overall, American Chinatown isn’t nearly as memorable or entertaining as similar films like Miami Connection or either Lethal Ninja, but it has a few bright moments here and there. Unfortunately, they are very spread out, and the awful acting, sound editing, and cinematography makes for a trying experience to sit through, which isn’t going to be worth most people’s time.

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