Green Dragon (2001)

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Released 19-Dec-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 108:00
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Timothy Linh Bui
Franchise Classics
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Patrick Swayze
Forest Whitaker
Don Duong
Hiep Thi Le
Billinjer C. Tran
Kathleen Luong
Phuoc Quan Nguyen
Long Nguyen
Catherine Ai
Phu Cuong
Kieu Chinh
Trung Hieu Nguyen
Jennifer Tran
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Jeff Danna
Mychael Danna

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Green Dragon chronicles, in a gentle fashion, the experiences and uncertainties of South Vietnamese refugees arriving in America during the withdrawal of the USA from the Vietnam war and the eventual fall of Saigon. Camp Pendleton, in California, was home for up to 16,000 refugees at a time, whilst their status was detailed, any relatives found and sponsors found to oversee their resettlement and integration into American life. The story is told through the eyes of Tai, played by Don Duong, recently arrived in the camp with his young niece and nephew. Tai anxiously awaits the arrival of his sister and brother or news of his brother-in-law, the children's father. The heartache and increasing despair as busload after busload decants its human cargo, devoid of their loved ones, is depicted in a simple and heartfelt way. Tai is one of the few Vietnamese to speak English and his communication skills are recognised by the camp commander, Gunnery Sergeant Jim Lance (Patrick Swayze), who appoints him Camp Manager. As manager he is party to the fears and domestic quarrels of his compatriots; angst from patriots who despair at having left their country's fight against the North Vietnamese oppressor; the rich man's family feuds after arriving with his existing wife and a newer, younger successor, both pregnant! Meantime, Tai has his own fears for the future about what truly lies outside the camp confines, and has to spend time reassuring his young nephew Minh (Trung Nguyen) that his mother will arrive. The camp spiv, Adie, is played by Forest Whitaker, the bumbling, big, black cook who befriends the young Vietnamese boy and reveals unsuspected artistic talents with which he cultivates the friendship. The name of the film comes from the Green Dragon the young Adie used to paint as an orphaned child, hoping that the mythical creature would bring his own father back to him.

    The story is told simply, with dignity and a gentleness in keeping with the soft spoken Vietnamese language in which most of the dialogue is spoken. The actors play a restrained but credible performance and the stars of the movie are undoubtedly the ordinary people coming to grips with camp life, laying old demons to rest and trying to look forward to an uncertain future. The Americans are portrayed as firm but fair, with a job to do, and the camp soldiers are very different from the brash, young Turks portrayed in many of the earlier Vietnam movies (with the notable exception of The Deer Hunter). The refugees exhibit a simple dignity whilst grieving over the death of their country, to which most can never return. And that's about it - nothing specially spectacular, no special effects, yet the film held my attention without tedium for its 2 hour duration. At a time when refugees are demonised as being potential terrorists or avaricious economic migrants and held in maximum security concentration camps, it is a gentle and thought-provoking glance at an alternative philosophy. Whether real life conditions were as depicted in this film, I am not in a position to say, but certainly the 134,000 Vietnamese who passed through such camps and subsequently settled in the USA would know!

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Transfer Quality


   The video transfer was very good, which is as we'd hope considering the film was released only 3 years ago.

   The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The film suffers a little in detail most likely as a result of being ported to a single layered DVD but is more than adequate for the gentle feel of the film. There is satisfactory shadow detail in the not infrequent night scenes and just an instance of particularly noticeable low level noise at 12:26 on some dimly lit stairs.

    Colours were well rendered - the nature of the refugee situation meant that there weren't too many bright colours splashed around but they were realistic, particularly in the rendering of the Asian skin tones, and there were no chroma artefacts of note.

    Apart from mild edge enhancement, for instance along Adie's shirt at 47:37, there weren't any film-to-video artefacts. The film was very clean and there were very infrequent film artefacts.

    English subtitles are essential for the feature, unless you are fluent in Vietnamese as this constitutes about 80% of the spoken dialogue. Fortunately, as they are burned in, they were a very accurate portrayal of the spoken word and also appropriately highlighted Foley effects for the hard of hearing. An optional English subtitle selection selected the few spoken English scenes.

    The disc is a single layered DVD-5 and so has no layer transition point.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     The audio transfer was excellent and augmented the feel of the film. Although I was a bit sceptical as to the need for a surround surround track in a feature of this nature, the camp was actually full of sounds; aeroplanes flying over, trucks pulling away, the relentless churn of humanity or the ritual clap-stick of the old man in prayer, day and night. There was even appropriate echo in the empty canteen at 21:00 when a few of the refugees were playing cards.

   There was just the one (the back cover mentions a second Dolby Digital 2.0) soundtrack in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround - most of the language spoken was Vietnamese with limited English intervals.

    The dialogue was  very clear and directed to the centre speaker, whilst ambient music and effects were directed to the front mains.

    Audio sync appeared spot on.

    There were a few well known numbers such as Bing Crosby's rendering of White Christmas but most of the musical score by Jeff and Michael Danna was confined to appropriate background atmospheric music containing suitably ethnic gongs and bamboo flute which added considerably to the feel of the feature. There were a few home grown patriotic Vietnamese songs which I wasn't able to understand.

    The surrounds provided continuous notable background ambience and added to my enjoyment of the movie - it was interesting how the sound of the clap stick varied as to the camera angle, panning as the camera angle changed from left rear then to front left to right - a nice mix. I couldn't hear any notable input from the subwoofer but couldn't be bothered to get up and feel its speaker cone to see if was alive - it wasn't needed.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



   A static menu with 4 choices offering movie play, chapter selection, trailer or subtitles on or off.

Theatrical Trailer

    1:48 of the original cinematic trailer in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 Roadshow Entertainment release misses out on:    The Region 1 Columbia Tristar version of this disc misses out on;     The R1 Columbia Tristar release would appear the clear winner if you want to have this disc as a 'keeper'.


    Green Dragon was a good but not great movie making a pleasant change from the usual DVD action or romantic features.

    The video was good but a little on the soft side.

    The audio was excellent and I had no significant criticisms.

    The extras were confined to the theatrical trailer and our DVD-5 release didn't have space for the R1 dual layered disc extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Lancaster (read my bio)
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDEAD 8000 Pro, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE300E Projector onto 250cm screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTheta Digital Intrepid
SpeakersMartin Logan - Aeon Fronts/Script rears/Theatre centre/ - REL Strata III SW

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