“Snakehead” is an unvarnished look at the seedy intersections between organized crime and human trafficking in today’s Chinatown in New York City. In his welcome but simplistic In addition to the American Criminal Family Saga, writer-director Evan Jackson Leong creates a shameless space for a wicked family with a strong bond.
Telling the story through an intra-diasporic perspective, Leong positions Chinese-American kingpin Dai Mah (Jade Wu) and her sons against sister Tse (Shuya Chang), a Chinese national who owes Dai Mah nearly $ 60,000. for its smuggling into the United States and is ready to become a human trafficker herself to pay off the debt.
The film aims to be both an insider’s look at the global human trafficking apparatus, including its tragic costs, and a redemptive tale of the women at the center of this criminal world. Leong is more successful in the first than in the second.
Wu plays Dai Mah with an unadorned abandon that often makes her feel like the protagonist of the film, but even her performance can’t overcome narrative missteps. The script categorically makes its female characters strong or weak, fueling a stilted quest to prove themselves worthy of redemption in the eyes of the drab men around them. Leong confuses motherhood with a personality characteristic and positions this fact as the reason why Sister Tse is worthy of a hero’s pedestal despite her complicity in Dai Mah’s crimes. It is hollow and reductive. Add to that the aimless voiceover, overblown flashbacks to the point of diluting meaning and a few weak fight scenes, and “Snakehead” tumbles too gently under the weight of his ambition.
Unclassified. Duration: 1 hour 29 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or purchase on Apple TV, Vudu and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.