China Girl (1987)
Director Abel Ferrara liberally employs his blackjack intensity in this lunatic gang romance that comes across as a cross between Mean Streets and West Side Story. The New York City street gangs of Chinatown and Little Italy are rattling their sabers and they become drawn when a Chinese restaurant opens up on the Italian side of Canal Street. In the middle of all this tension and violence, beautiful Chinese teenager Tyan-Hwa (Sari Chang) falls in love with Tony (Richard Panebianco), a pizza delivery boy. Of course, continuing with in the West Side Story vein, the parents of the two lovebirds are against the match. Not only that, but the Mafia and the Chinese mob conspire to separate the lovers in order to maintain an uncertain peace in the community. … More
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Critic Reviews for China Girl
Ripping reworking of Romeo and Juliet, that's set in modern-day Manhattan's Chinatown and Little Italy.
Audience Reviews for China Girl
Chinese gangs vs. Italian gangs in NYC in 1987. Tony (Richard Panebianco) and Tye (Sari Chang) meet and fall in love. Meanwhile Tye's brother hates all Italians and Tony's friends hate Chinese.
If you've seen "West Side Story" you know how this ends--but a bit more tragically in this movie. Plotwise it's very obvious but it's beautifully done. Filmed with energy, beautifully atmospheric (the sets and lighting are incredible), and full of bursts of ultraviolence. Most of the roles are well acted, especially by James Russo, David Caruso (chewing the scenery) and Russell Wong. As the young lovers Panebianco and Chang are, unfortunately, not that good. In a way it's understandable--he was only 16 when this was made and it's the first role for both. They're both very attractive (Panebianco is pretty buff with a baby face; Chang is delicate and beautiful) but have little to do other than kiss and act like they love each other. That isn't believable either since they have zero sexual chemistry. Still, they are sympathetic characters. Also, in a nice touch, Panebianco shows more skin than Chang in their sex scene.
This is really obscure and it doesn't deserve it. It had nearly no release in 1987 (there were no stars to sell it) and was never a big hit on cable or video. Also Chang never made another movie and Panebianco disappeared after making a few more films (Whatever happened to him? He showed a lot of promise.). That's too bad--this deserves a bigger audience. Worth watching on cable or renting.
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