is a re-imagining of Romeo and Juliette
Abel Ferrara-style--which is to say West Side Story
redone without the songs. The ethnicities updated to a 1987 focusing on the New York City clash between the Italians and the Chinese, and there is a lot more gritty on-the-streets action.
China Girl offers a lower intensity than most Ferrara movies, revolving not around a lone obsessive Driller Killer--such as the Ms.45, King of New York, Bad Lieutenant figure--but a pair of fairly bland young lovers, played by actors who get an "and introducing" credit but don't seem to have done much since, Richard Panebianco and Sari Chang. However, Ferrara does have a great collection of New York acting talents in support, with James Russo, David Caruso and Robert Miano in the Eastern camp and Russell Wong, Joey Chin and James Hong in the Triad gang.
The feud situation is even more complex than in most versions of the story as the gang-fight clashes between Italian hoods and Chinese thugs are contrasted with the mock-civilised behaviour of each community's criminal elder statesmen. Like most Ferrara films, it's ragged around the edges and mixes scenes of silent movie-style melodrama with others that seem utterly real. Always a great low-budget action director, he scores here with many scrambles over chainlink fences, knife-fights in neon-lit alleyways and what other director would smash a statue of the madonna and leave her head spinning in a gutter? Fifteen years later and the film has a real 80s feel in its crowded disco scenes, with pumped-up and preening youths and surprisingly resonant rock score. --Kim Newman
United Kingdom released, PAL/Region 2 DVD: LANGUAGES: English ( Dolby Digital Stereo ), WIDESCREEN (1.78:1), SPECIAL FEATURES: Interactive Menu, Scene Access, SYNOPSIS: A modern day Romeo & Juliet story is told in New York when an Italian boy and a Chinese girl become lovers, causing a tragic conflict between ethnic gangs. ...China Girl (UK)