Synopsis:THE PITCH: "Inspired by Hong Kong movies and The Godfather. It is about one man's rise to power and the toll it exacts on his soul."
AARON LAU, 10, Eurasian, is raised in Seattle’s International District by single mother JULIE. Two crime organizations -- Golden Seas Tong and Harmonious Path Tong -- vie for control of the district. Julie struggles financially. BILLY ZHANG, a member of the Golden Seas, offers her a job at a nightclub. Julie gets money to enroll Aaron in an elite school by becoming Billy’s mistress. Aaron discovers this and runs away. Julie finds him and tells him she is doing everything for him. She wants his life to be better than hers -- she wants him to become someone important. Aaron is determined to realize her wishes.
In high school, Aaron’s friend PAUL CHIN sets him up with CATHERINE WONG. Her parents disapprove. Julie -- no longer Billy’s mistress -- now works at a supermarket. Aaron and Catherine break up. Paul takes Catherine to the prom. Aaron and Paul, both kung fu students, spar -- Aaron whips Paul. Their friendship ends.
Aaron, at Stanford on scholarship, rushes home when he learns Julie’s ill. Her situation is terminal. Not wanting his mother to spend her remaining time in a small, cramped apartment, Aaron tries to get a bank loan and move her into a condominium. Unable to do so, he seeks out Billy. Billy can give him the loan but needs to know how Aaron will pay him back. Aaron says he wants to join the Golden Seas. Billy asks if Aaron knows that once he is in, he is in for life. Aaron nods.
Aaron, with trepidation, does his first job -- arson. He moves Julie into a condominium. Aaron is arrested in a drug sting. He is sentenced to four years in prison. His mother dies. Catherine, estranged from her parents, moves to Los Angeles with her boyfriend. Paul graduates from Princeton and joins the FBI.
Aaron is released from prison. HENRY TSING, Dragonhead of the Golden Seas, thanks him for his loyalty. Aaron, assisted by SEAN LEE, rises in the organization. After succeeding in a near-disastrous drug deal, Aaron convinces Tsing to make their next deal their last one -- and move into legitimate enterprises. Aaron’s growing stature threatens Billy.
Aaron reacquaints with Catherine -- back from LA, the single mother of a 4-year-old Eurasian son. Paul, an FBI Agent in New York, is transferred to Seattle. Billy gets into a confrontation with Harmonious Path. Billy and others are hospitalized when Harmonious Path bombs their nightclub. Paul meets Aaron, tells him to walk away. Aaron replies he can no more walk away from his job than Paul can.
Against Billy’s wishes, Aaron convinces Tsing not to retaliate against Harmonious Path -- they don’t need more attention. A shipment of narcotics arrives and is transferred to a farmhouse. Billy hires gang members to kill Aaron. Aaron gets closer to Catherine and her son. He shows them a hilltop property where his dream home is being built. Aaron is shot multiple times in front of Catherine. Billy tells Tsing this is the work of Harmonious Path. Tsing gives Billy the okay to kill the top men in Harmonious Path. Billy does this. The Golden Seas Tong is now sole ruler of the International District.
Billy learns Aaron’s survived. Aaron leaves the hospital and recovers at Catherine’s apartment. Aaron finalizes a deal to sell the narcotics. Catherine tells Aaron she needs him to leave the tong. Aaron replies they are on the cusp of legitimacy. She says it does not matter. Aaron walks out on her and her son. Aaron discovers Billy was behind his shooting. Aaron kills Billy. Paul tells Aaron he is going to put him away. Aaron says Paul will have to kill him first.
Sean is arrested. Paul makes a deal with him. Henry Tsing dies. At the farmhouse, Aaron oversees the narcotics deal. The FBI arrives -- Aaron escapes into the woods with the drug proceeds. Paul follows. So does Sean. Paul catches Aaron, aims his gun at him ... Sean shoots Paul from behind. Aaron -- with a mix of emotions, empathy one of them -- finishes off Paul. Aaron then kills Sean.
Aaron is arrested and charged with murder and conspiracy to distribute narcotics. The verdict comes down ... not guilty. Aaron leaves his dream home and goes to his penthouse office in the International District. The new Dragonhead of the Golden Seas Tong.