Dogs Of Chinatown (2008)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 8/8/10
Written And Directed By: Micah Moore
Fight Choreography: Eric Jacobus, Ray Carbonel
Cast: Eric Jacobus, Huyen Thi, Brian Lee, Ray Carbonel, Minh Vu, cameo by Tyler Wang

An unapologetically grim crime drama that recalls early 90's Hong Kong fare. Jack (Eric Jacobus) is hopelessly depressed and is about to commit suicide when he hears shots outside his apartment. A young woman is being kidnapped by a couple of Mafia thugs, and Jack decides to use his bullets on them instead of himself. His heroic act brings him to the attention of the Chinese gang boss Mr. Wu, and he is offered a job as an assassin. Jack learns martial arts and battle strategy from Wei (Brian Lee), and while he excels at his trade, he doesn't particularly enjoy it. Things heat up when the Italians hire a Russian hitman, and the Chinese retaliate by bringing in a hot-headed Ray Carbonel. To make things even messier, Jack has fallen in love with one of Mr. Wu's mistresses (Huyen Thi), which can only lead to tragedy. As these kinds of movies go, resolution is only achieved when everyone is dead.

This is definitely the best looking picture that The Stunt People have worked on, and the cinematography is beautiful. The video is heavily processed, but the high contrast lighting and color effects create a wonderfully dark mood and are very pretty to look at. Unfortunately, the film seems to be a victim of its own conceit, as the pacing is consistently slow and tedious. Eric Jacobus gives a moving physical performance, but his dialog delivery tends to be a little flat - especially during narrative voiceovers. However, one could argue that it fits Jack's despondent personality. The fight scenes are very good and surprisingly bloody, which is nice to see. The only downside is that the camera sometimes has trouble keeping up with the players and the fast shutter speed creates an unpleasant strobing effect. The use of slow motion is also overused and detracts from the flow of the action. The music score is appropriately melancholic and nicely reflects the overbearing sadness of the characters. While all of the actors do a very good job, special mention should be given to Minh Vu, whose portrayal of Lee's final breakdown is extremely moving. Excellent work. Overall, it's more drama than action and it wasn't the movie I was expecting to see, but I found it highly enjoyable nonetheless.