I wasn’t a minute into Made in Chinatown when I started getting a bad feeling about it. A voiceover introduces us to the three mob bosses that run New York City. Al Capella (Tony Darrow, Goodfellas, Once Upon A Time in Brooklyn), Amadore Condimento (Vincent Pastore, The Sopranos, Black Wake) who sells bootleg spices, and the boss of the Chinatown Triads, Hung Phat (Meng Lo, Five Deadly Venoms, The Dark Soul). I suppose I should have been grateful they didn’t call him Dong Hung Lo, but with “funny” names like this, I had a sinking feeling already.
These three are on the verge of a city wide turf war. Into the middle of all this comes Vinny Chow (Jay Kwon, Zoombies, Iron Fist) who grew up watching Mafia movies and whose goal in life is to become the first Chinese-made man. Instead, he becomes a pawn of corrupt police commissioner Sean O’Greedy (Raymond J. Barry, Year of the Dragon, Desolation) who’s playing all three of them against each other and ends up trying to sell Amadore’s olive oil in Chinatown.
I was hoping Made in Chinatown would at least be a decent action-comedy. But an early fight between Hung Phat and Hai Chu (Chi Ling Chiu, Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, Kung Fu Hustle) is ruined by the overuse of slow motion and freeze frame for no apparent reason.
That’s both disappointing and surprising because while co-directors Robert Samuels and James Lew only have one other feature between them, Lew’s 18 Fingers of Death, both have worked as stuntmen and fight coordinators. Lew’s career stretches from They Live to Avengers: Endgame. You would think they could pull off a fight between two martial arts veterans. Unfortunately, all the fights in Made in Chinatown, not that there are many, are shot like this. That includes the final brawl which could have been good if it had been shot without the gimmicks.
The script from first-time writer Mark V. Wiley is the real problem though. Most of Made in Chinatown’s attempts at humour revolve around either the kinds of character names I’ve already mentioned or some truly awful stereotypes of Italian Americans and Chinese Americans. And then there’s Vinny’s best friend Lawrence (Emmanuel Brown, Blood of the Beast, Perfect: Android Rising) who gets to be both an African American stereotype and a stereotypical gay male.
Made in Chinatown’s last act brings in Special Agent Johnson (Bob Martin) and Special Agent Johnson (Robert Samuels) who enlist Vinny, Lawrence and their buddy Joey Rissotto (Timothy Chivalette) in a plan to take down O’Greedy and all three mobsters. Can Vinny find a way to do this and still catch the attention of Mafia Princess Tina (Theresa Moriarty)?
Or will he realize his destiny lies back in Chinatown with May Wong (Shuya Chang, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny) and the rest of his own people? I don’t think I’m giving anything away when I say a film full of stereotypes that border on offensive ends with a message of stick to your own race.
I really hate trashing a film this badly but I can honestly say Made in Chinatown is one of the worst films I’ve seen in years. Unlike Witness Infection it doesn’t have the humour to take the edge off its stereotypical characters. In fact, I didn’t laugh once. And the action scenes which might have made it bearable, all fall flat. This is one to seriously avoid, even for free on Tubi it would be overpriced.