LOS ANGELES, January 3, 2014 – There are certain films that have great messages that somehow must be seen and heard in order to generate necessary public discussion of the issues. Unfortunately, most of this kind were made in the past by filmmakers and studios that were in it for both the art and the commerce. Especially, U.S. commerce.
Today, some Hollywood studios, and more than a few filmmakers, are too willing to censor their own work (see “Iron Man 3”) or alter storylines in order to maximize foreign grosses while at the same time not offending foreign government subsidizers, collaborators or partners (see China).
Thankfully, “Dragon Day” and its filmmakers (Burning Myth Productions) are not part of the Hollywood machine. “Dragon Day” is an intrepid independent film that foresees the day when China decides to call in its extensive U.S. debts and collect its due. Only unlike the Russians and Cubans in the original “Red Dawn,” the modern Chinese Communists in this film attempt to take over the United States electronically and digitally by hacking into our technologies and systems.
In “Dragon Day,” on the same day the Communist Chinese launch sneak hack-attack, a former National Security Agency (NSA) employee named Duke Evans takes his family on a nostalgic trip back to his late father’s mountain home.
Initially unaware of ongoing events, the Evans family first encounters the Chinese attack first via a strangely dysfunctional bank ATM and later by watching in horror as commercial airliners and military planes tumble from the sky. Much later, an emergency message is broadcast to both their television and their cell phones explaining to them that what they’ve just witnessed and duly noting that the Chinese are now in charge of everything.
A technology expert, Duke quickly figures out that Americans themselves blindly provided the Chinese government with the perfect way to take our country over without firing a shot by allowing them to sell us Trojan horse microcomputer chips later re-deployed in the hack attack while limitlessly acquiring our out-of-control Federal government’s debt.
As the film’s narrative line unfolds, resources such as food, power, gas and water soon become scarce after the Chinese takeover. At the same time, local compliance with the rule of America’s new masters is soon enforced on Duke’s family by corrupt backwoods Sheriff Watson.
Unfortunately, the Sheriff in this film is not only bad. He’s badly played by David Delsing, whose villainy is transparently symbolized by the hackneyed, mirrored sunglasses his character wears. Without much logic behind his motivations, Sheriff Watson becomes the point man for turning local residents into Chinese subjects while also making it his key mission to personally break Duke.
Compounding the Sheriff’s over-the-top treasonous misdeeds is Mr. Delsing’s insistence on interpreting his role along the lines of of Captain in “Cool Hand Luke.” The only thing missing is his portrayal of the Sheriff is a signature line like “what we have here is a failure to communicate.” While the Sheriff in this film is likely intended to represent the Chinese government’s local hammer, he brings way more confusion to the story than anything else.
In addition to the portrayal of Sheriff Watson, “Dragon Day” suffers from weak acting in other roles as well, although antidotes come in part from good performances by Eloy Mendez as Mexican migrant worker, Alonso Benavidez and Ethan Flower as Duke Evans.
The acting problem is not quite what it seems at first. It is not that necessarily the case that Mr. Mendez and Mr. Flower are good while the other actors are bad. It is just that a number of the film’s actors simply aren’t the ones this film needs to tell such a big, epic story.
There are also some major leaps of faith (and logic) in the film’s story line, which makes one wonder if the film’s myriad faults really stem from an inadequate budget or a concurrent inability to find actors capable of elevating the film’s timely matter through convincing characterization or improvisation.
In spite of its obvious failings, however, “Dragon Day” is a film not devoid of ambition. The intimacy of what happens to Duke Evans and his family has a certain “On The Beach” (1959) quality of timelessness to it.
This sense of timeliness and closeness is the film’s great strength, helping pull viewers into the story by making them think: How would I or my family react if this all really happened to us? It is a serious question to ponder in our current century, increasingly dominated as it is by society’s growing dependence on technology, which is increasingly pitted on government sanctioned intrusiveness as exemplified by increasing incidents of ever more serious hacking and spying.
“Dragon Day” wraps up the action with a surprise ending that will make many squirm in their seats. You may see it coming, but not in the way or manner that you might have imagined. While the film may not reach great heights in every scene, it does push viewers to challenge themselves with a greater intensity than we’ve seen in few other recent films.
The national and personal security issues lying at the core of this film are issues that seriously need to be discussed by many Americans. For that reason alone, “Dragon Day” is a film that’s well-worth viewing via currently available DVD, so long as you’re willing to look past some acting deficiencies and major holes in the script. But then again, many Hollywood films with far bigger budgets exhibit the same problems these days and still manage to make a profit.
The official “Dragon Day” trailer appears below.
“Dragon Day” is not yet rated for audience appropriateness.
Our Rating: ** (2 Stars out of 4)
“Dragon Day” is currently available on DVD/Blu-Ray at www.dragondaymovie.com and elsewhere.
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