Film Review by Lillian Bit
The film Made In Chinatown is a very clever story by Writer and Executive Producer Mark V. Wiley. The idea came to him one day and he thought, “What would it be like for a Chinese kid to crossed the boundary of Chinatown and into Little Italy?” If you don’t know, in New York City, Chinatown and Little Italy are across Canal Street from one another!
Since he was a little boy, “Vinny” Chow wanted to be Italian to the dismay of his Chinese parents. But nothing could quench Vinny’s desire growing up and he makes friends with an Italian boy Joey Risotto who is the relative of “Fountain Soda eddit” (played by Tony Ray Rossi), who works for NY mob boss “Condimento” (played by Vincent Pastore). Vinny wants an introduction so he could one day join the mob. If that isn’t enough, let’s add the infatuation that Vinny has for the gorgeous sexy Italian girl Tina (played beautifully by Teresa Moriarity) and we have an impossible dream. However, Vinny is intent in making whatever it takes to get respect and become a member of the mob.
What would a film with an Italian / Chinese story be without the requisite Italian Mobsters and Chinese Martial Arts Gangsters? Well think huge cast on both sides with top popular stars of American and Asian films. If I listed everyone’s credentials in this cast it would take an encyclopedia to fit it all in. The Italian mafia mob bosses all realistically played by Vincent Pastore (of Sopranos fame) and Tony Darrow (Goodfellas) as mob bosses and Chinese movie star Lo Meng (Ip Man 4, Five Venoms) plays the Triad boss “Hung Phat” and they all fight for control of the condiments trade.
Vinny Chow and his two friends are recruited by special agents Johnson and Johnson to get evidence on the mob since trouble has been instigated by the dirty New York Crime Commissioner played by the lean and mean Sean O’Grady (played by Raymond J. Barry).
There are not just wiseguys in this movie but two funny Chinese prophets whom Vinny goes to for sage advice. Played hilariously by veteran actor Geoff Lee (50 film biography) who plays “Knowledge” and Shing Ka, (Revenge of the Green Dragons) who plays “Wisdom” – both are actor /producers well known in Manhattan’s Chinatown community. They also both play double roles in this film – Geoff as “Liu the Ancient” as an herbalist, and Shing as “Ming,” right hand man of Triad boss. Convincing in both parts – You don’t realize they played prophets as well.
Also fine performances from actors Fenton Li and Patricia Lee Chu who play the worried and puzzled parents of Vinny Chow. The other girl interest of Vinny Chow in this movie is May Wong performed so sweetly by lovely actress Shuya Chang (Sneakhead). The parents are hopeful that she will divert his attention to her and not to mob yearnings. Celia Au (Wu Assassins) plays Suzie Wong her girlfriend.
That’s the plot so far, but there are so many amazing and skilled actors in this movie that keep you thrilled. The amazing and popular team of well known actors from The Sopranos -Vincent Pastore, who won for best actor at the Newark International Film. Other Italian actorsTony Darrow (Goodfellas, Mickey Blue Eyes), Paul Borghese (ONce Upon a Time in Brooklyn), Joseph D’Onofrio (A Bronx Tale), Tony Ray Rossi (Donny Brasco), Chris Caldovino (Boardwalk Empire) and others round out the amazing list.
The unbelievable lineup of the finest martial artist and their skills seen displayed in the action scenes. Skilled veterans among them Lo Meng (Hong Kong action Icon), Tak Wah Eng (The Streets), Chiu Chi Ling (Kung-fu Hustle) and many others that deserve mention.
A wonderful mention to actor Manny Brown who gives an outstanding effeminate comic performance with kick ass martial skills. He is a wonder to watch and in his short performance was one of the standouts in this film.
Sometimes one actor can tie this film all together and that is Vinny Chow played by young actor Jay Kwon. He is a superb actor with so much range and emotion for someone who has few films under his belt. He is sensational as Vinny Chow and won Best Stunt Award from the Newark International Film Festival. That is quite an outstanding award when you compare the top martial artists in this film. I’m guessing this award is also the compilation of training and martial arts choreography by top skilled veterans such as James Lew famous for tons of martial arts film and choreography.
This is a hit parade of celebrities from many decades and it’s a thrill to see a film that embraces in story and in plot the diversity, inclusivity and representation that many writers have not learned to incorporate in their writings. It’s a example that many filmmakers, directors, casting professionals have yet to fully embrace as indicative of future endeavors that will succeed with audiences.
To do justice to this film review I include a link to the IMDb page so you can see everyone who made it happen. because this is a huge team effort big and small to make this film happen. I bless Mark Wiley for having the vision to be ahead of the naysayers of diversity, inclusion and representation. And just make a delightful film about people and the funny quirks we all have in our differences but know the underlying basis of similarities is having common connections of love and laughter.
Along with gratitude to Mark Wiley, directors James Lew and Bobby Samuels and to the amazing cast and crew. Kudos for a wonderful film. Now to the future audiences:
Does Vinnny make it into the mob? Does Vinny get the girl? Who wins ? Make a bet – is it the Mafia or the Triad? You’ll have to see the movie and bring your family.
But fuhgeddaboud the popcorn because you’ll be laughing too hard to eat it!