Director Richard Park (aka Woo-sang Park) has been one of our favorite discoveries in the past couple of years here at Video Junkie. While he apparently began his action filmmaking career in the 1970s in South Korea, it wasn’t until Park came to the United States in the 1980s that he really hit his stride. Starting with NINJA TURF (1985), Park traveled the U.S. like a circus, rolling into random towns to make movies and (most likely) exploit the generosity of the Korean community. TURF found him in Los Angeles; he ran all the way across the country to Florida to make MIAMI CONNECTION (1987); and somehow after that he found himself in Wisconsin (!) to make this hilarious “gang” film.
Asian high school student Paul (Joon Kim) is constantly being harassed by thug Billy (Johnathan Gorman) and his cohort Johnny (Shannon Gross). You can tell Billy really hates Paul because he calls him “chink” all the time. In order to squash the various beefs that come up, Paul must fight guys of Billy’s choice in amateur combat bouts in a cold warehouse (“You know where the old, vacant building is?”). Cornered by his only friend Charlie (Ho Sik Pak), Paul always seems to win though and this really pisses Billy off. Also, Billy’s chick Judy thinks Paul is hot stuff after seeing his kung fu moves. Of course, none of this can settle the internal inferno in Paul’s life as he has to deal with his drunken father who yells at him in Korean (with no subtitles!). Apparently what dad says is pretty harsh because it causes Paul to hop trains and ride around in this cold, barren town. You know you are real bastard when your son forgoes sitting in his nice warm room for the blistering Wisconsin winter wasteland.
Jenny’s dad: “What do you think my constituents would think if they knew that my daughter was dating some Oriental kid?”
Jenny: “But dad, not only are your constituents Caucasian, they’re niggers and hisp…”
Jenny’s dad (cutting her off): “Still, there are more Caucasians than any others.”
AMERICAN CHINATOWN (1996) we get extended portions all in Korean with no subtitles where people give out plot points. Since this is a drama, the fights definitely aren’t on the level of his earlier films either and that does diminish the fun factor. And, of course, we get the ridiculous depiction of American gang tough guys which Asian filmmakers always seem to get so wrong. For example, Billy is attempting rape in one scene and a few scenes later holed up in his room crying and hugging his cat.
Even funnier are the budget DVD labels trying to push it as a Latino gang film, complete with a still of Estrada from TRACKDOWN (1976) from the 1970s on the front. This actually got several releases on DVD and you can also find it under the original, head scratching title LOOK AT ME AMERICA. That DVD promises Troy Donahue in the film but he is nowhere to be seen. Seriously, I don’t want to read too much into stuff, but when I opened the used DVD I bought of this, there was a live cockroach inside. Really! Finer symbolism for such a misguided film cannot be obtained.
How to best view GANG JUSTICE: