Year of the Dragon has an arrogant, electric energy that dares you to look away from the screen for an instant. Do so and you miss a furious piece of action that has bubbled up, seemingly out of nowhere.
Year of the Dragon leaves itself wide open to attack -- it has huge flaws and absurdities -- and Cimino is responsible for most of them. But this revved-up, over-stuffed movie is undeniably alive, teeming with evidence of Cimino's gifts as a filmmaker and his gaffes as a thinker. It's dazzling, and it's dumb. [19 Aug 1985, p.69]
The Year of the Dragon is full of florid language, saddled with Cimino's bogus insights and no more true to Chinatown than Heaven's Gate was to the prairie. But The Year of the Dragon is also robust and fast, violent and alive. There's an uneasy sense of the spurious about Cimino's art, but that's what he's making nonetheless. This is either a ya-hoo's delight or the best gangster fantasy since Once Upon a Time in America (long version); maybe it's both. [16 Aug 1985, p.D1]
Its metaphors are too obvious (as before, Cimino's analogy for death is more death) and its treatment of social problems is skin-deep. Although the screenplay throws sops to many cultural and ethnic groups, it's riddled with racist and sexist attitudes. [23 Aug 1985, p.25]
Once again Cimino's ability to handle furious action set pieces is well to the fore: a shootout in a Chinese restaurant and a battle with two pistol-packing Chinese punkettes put him in the Peckinpah class. The connecting material, however, is by turns muddled, crass and dull, amounting mostly to Stanley's interminable self-justification.
Director Michael Cimino turned YEAR OF THE DRAGON, an engrossing novel by Robert Daley, into a confused, overlong, preachy, and at times downright annoying crime epic with a wholly unsympathetic main character played by the totally miscast Mickey Rourke.