6.2/10
1,484
17 user 10 critic

China Girl (1987)

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.

Director:

Abel Ferrara
Reviews
1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
James Russo ... Alby
Richard Panebianco Richard Panebianco ... Tony
Sari Chang Sari Chang ... Tye
David Caruso ... Mercury
Russell Wong ... Yung Gan
Joey Chin Joey Chin ... Tsu Shin
Judith Malina ... Mrs. Monte
James Hong ... Gung Tu
Robert Miano ... Enrico Perito
Paul Hipp ... Nino
Doreen Chan Doreen Chan ... Gau Shing
Randy Sabusawa Randy Sabusawa ... Ma Fan
Keenan Leung Keenan Leung ... Ying Tz
Lum Chang Pang Lum Chang Pang ... Da Shan
Sammy Lee Sammy Lee ... Mohawk
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Storyline

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. Written by Keith Loh <loh@sfu.ca>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

25 September 1987 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

China Girl See more »

Filming Locations:

New York City, New York, USA

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$531,362, 27 September 1987

Gross USA:

$1,262,091

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$1,262,091
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Richard Panebianco was cast as Tony after Abel Ferrara spotted him in a New York stage play. See more »

Quotes

Alby: The fuckin' Chinese blew up half the block tonight.
Tony: Don't fuck with the Chinese, Alby. They'll fucking kill you.
Alby: Mind your business!
See more »

Crazy Credits

After the credits there is a line: Dedicated to the people of Chinatown and Little Italy. See more »

Alternate Versions

The UK video version was cut by 7 seconds to remove the use of a butterfly knife. The Columbia DVD features the same cut print. See more »

Connections

References West Side Story (1961) See more »

Soundtracks

Land So Far Away
Lyrics by Bonnie Rae
Music by Gordon Grip
Performed by Bonnie and the Lads
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
quite dated and sometimes painfully corny, but also entertaining and occasionally intense
12 May 2010 | by Quinoa1984See all my reviews

It should be given that Abel Ferrara and his writer Nicholas St. John knew what they were doing with China Girl. The influence of Romeo & Juliet would be first to come to mind, but I think it was even more-so West Side Story that must have loomed in their minds. Some of the influence is so painfully obvious as to seem like a rip-off (the main male character in love is even named Tony), and on a more immediate level of the period- the good ol' mid 1980's- things like hip-hop, synth-dance music, and of course Michael Jackson's 'Beat It' are inter-connected with the film. I almost expected in some of these gang-fight scenes to hear Eddie Van Halen's wicked guitar solo to come up on the soundtrack.

Oh, Ferrara does have his moments with the material, which is very basically about turf war between the Chinese in Chinatown and the Italians in Little Italy, with Canal street as the dividing line. There is some interest in how the conflict comes up when a Chinese restaurant pops up on the side of Little Italy - and yet the owner doesn't want to pay the usual protection fee to the Chinese gang just because he's Chinese. This spurs on some major problems, violence, and of course Tony and Tyan-Hwa at the center.

A flaw in the film is that we're never really sure why the two lovebirds are even in love with each other. Again, like Robbins/Wise's film, they spot each other from across the dance hall and have a dance, and their curiosity in each other, the ol' 'love-at-first-sight' thing. But it doesn't really gel as well with the gritty realism and street toughness of the rest of the picture; when Tony and Tyan-Hwa give each other sweet nothings ("How do you say 'I love you in Italian?" "How do you say it in Chinese?") it's some of the corniest material you've never seen. It's not that the actors are bad in their parts- the actress playing Tyan-Hwa has some tenderness to her that is nice for the production.

But there's some inconsistency with how the story flows, sometimes scene to scene. Here and there a memorable moment happens (RUN DMC's Walk This Way is the only thing to never get dated, for a great dance number), and the fighting scenes are well staged and intense. There's a few fascinating supporting or minor roles, like James Hong as Gung Tu, the head of the Chinese crime family who, most wisely, wants just peace and quiet between the rivals. And yet there's also some acting and writing that just doesn't work, period (what, for example, is David Caruso, a red-haired Irish guy, doing with a bunch of Italianos in this story, good as he might be), and the ending, while appropriately tragic and well-staged, doesn't fit the rest of the time Ferrara's after.

It's as if, basically, Ferrara decided to make his comment on West Side Story, give it some importance in a present-time setting of 1987, and the little-seen angle of Chinese-vs-Italian gangs, and make it rougher, less cheesy than its influences. But really, who wants realism when you've got love-at-first-sight? It's an interesting experiment that is a very mixed bag.


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