My first introduction to Donnie Yen was Ip Man (2008). After being blown away by that film I was pretty much open to anything he was involved with. So when the opportunity to review this film came along I was more than eager.
Dragon, or Wu-Xia as it’s known in China, is the story of Liu Jin-Xi (Yen) a craftsman in a small Chinese village in the early 1900s. He has a wife, Ah Yu (Wei Tang), and two young boys. His life seems idyllic until two thieves rob one of the village stores. Jin-Xi intervenes and, in what seems an accident, ends up killing both the men. He is praised as a village hero, however Detective Xu Bai-Jiu (Takeshi Kanehiro) thinks otherwise. As he slowly begins to unravel the truth of who Jin-Xi really is, his idyllic life begins to fall apart.
What makes Dragon a better than average kung fu film is that it doesn’t play out like your average kung fu film. It has a very slow build as the first half of the film is about the mystery that Bai-Jiu is trying to solve. While the end of the film shows both men dealing with the consequences of their actions.
Both Jin-Xi and Bai-Jiu are very interesting and dynamic characters. It’s abundantly clear from early on that Jin-Xi has something to hide in his past and is doing his best to make up for it in the present. Meanwhile Bai-Jiu is a man whose life revolves around the law. He doesn’t believe that men can change.
The other star of the film who has very little, but very important, screen time is Yu Wang who played the titular character in the classic ’70s The One-Armed Swordsman, which this film play obvious tribute to. However, this time around Wang plays the villain and though he’s only on screen a short time he is certainly one of the more memorable characters.
There is one particularly great scene where Bai-Jiu is trying to figure out what really happened in the fight between Jin-Xi and the two thieves. As he walks around the shop and questions Jin-Xi he begins to piece it all together and we see the fight scene played out again, this time in slow motion and this time we see what really happened and begin to realize that there is much more to Jin-Xi than he is letting on.
Dragon isn’t your standard kung fu action film, so if you’re looking for wall to wall action you’d best look elsewhere. This film has a great story with interesting characters. It has a well-paced slow build that is enjoyable to watch with a pay off of some great actions sequences at the end.
The film is presented in 2.35:1 and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. This is a wonderful looking and sounding film.
This has a great series of short making of bits that run about 22 minutes. They talk about many different and interesting things. There are also a couple featurettes (6 min.) where Donnie Yen talks about different aspects of the film. And you get a music video (5 min.)
I really enjoyed Dragon. Donnie Yen once again delivers some great action sequences all surrounded by a very engaging and interesting story.
Anchor Bay presents Dragon. Written by: Joyce Chan and Oi Wah Lam. Directed by: Peter Chan. Starring: Donnie Yen, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Wei Tang and Yu Wang. Running time: 115 min. Rating: R. Released: April 16, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Donnie Yen