Action Movie Fanatix Review: American Dragons

East Meets West With A Vengeance!

Starring: Michael Biehn, Joong-HoonPark, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Don Stark, Byron Mann

Director: Ralph Hemecker

1998  |  91 Minutes  |  Rated R

“You’re either going to spill a little truth or spill a little blood.” – Detective Tony Luca

Buddy cop movies are a dime a dozen.  To stand out from the pack a movie has to bring something… anything fresh to the table.  American Dragons doesn’t and it toils in mediocrity because of it.

New York Detective Tony Luca (Michael Biehn) is joined by Inspector Kim (Joong-HoonPark) from Korea as they investigate the murder of Mafia and Yakuza members by someone that Kim knows only as Shadow.  This double bladed assassin is the same man who killed Kim’s family in Korea.  The two cops must stop Shadow before an all out gang war breaks out in the streets.

There are a few scenes at the beginning which are simply Detective Luca being silently reflective about an undercover case gone wrong.  These scenes are meant to elicit some sort of an emotional response.  Instead they just left me sleepy.

After that we get some classic buddy cop getting used to each other scenes.  The back and forth banter between Luca and Kim is about what you would expect.  There are a few laughs but you’ve heard it all before.  When the two cops come to their inevitable blows they rustle up a sleeping hobo who threatens to call the cops.  Both respond with the fully expected “I am a cop!”  100% unoriginal but it still got a smile out of me.

When they finally bond and become a team we get a nice scene of them working out together.  Stan Lane & Steve Keirn would be proud.  This is of course followed by a trip to a church where Kim and Luca hedge their bets and pray to each other’s gods, Buddha and Mr. God.

Michael Biehn’s performance here bounces between completely horrible and kinda-sorta ok.  I usually like the guy but there just isn’t much to work with.  He’s completely unbelievable here as a cop his line delivery falls flat on its face.

Joong-HoonPark makes Jackie Chan sound like an English professor.  If his English were any more broken he wouldn’t be understandable at all.  People keep making jokes about him being Chinese which sets up for the constant reminder that he isn’t Chinese, he’s Korean.  *groan*

All of the action in American Dragons is standard action fare.  Most of it was just barely good enough to keep me watching.  There is one good scene in a bowling alley where a dude gets killed with a bowling ball.  I guess that was director Ralph Hemecker’s one original thought.

Both Luca & Kim know martial arts but both are shown getting their asses handed to them on multiple occasions.  This goes against traditional action movie form.  You would usually show them getting through the lower level thugs with ease and then struggling a bit more with the big bosses.  Instead both men look weak heading into the final battle.  They really shouldn’t stand any chance if they struggled with the underlings.  The ending is still pretty cool but it is set up so poorly.

Lastly, what the hell is with the name of this movie!?!  We have one American and a Korean and the movie is called American Dragons.  The original name was Double Edge which is obviously a horrible title but is much more appropriate than American Dragons.

The end of American Dragons sets up for a sequel with Biehn’s final line “Next time I’m coming to Korea!”  Not surprisingly, it never got one.  We probably don’t need a sequel to a movie that rehashed every cliché in the buddy cop book.  There is only so much beating a dead horse can take.