As we know by now, Dragon Dynasty is the Criterion of Kung Fu movies. They take any Kung Fu movie, clean up the audio and video where needed and provide a slew of extras for us to enjoy. From featurettes to commentaries with expert Bey Logan, it always provided the Hong Kong kung fu fans with a presentation second to none. However, as with Criterion classics, the movie isn’t always second to none.
Kong Ko (played by Wu Jing (Jacky Wu))was a member of the National Kung Fu Team. He now spends his off time at an opera house performing for the folks a blend of descriptive dance and his fancy moves. A group of thugs come in one night and try to recruit the young warrior to fight in the underground fighting circuit they take care of. At first Kong doesn’t wish to participate. However, his co-worker/love interest Siu Tin (played by Miki Yeung) convinces him otherwise after striking a deal with the circuit gang.
Kong and Siu make their way to the underground fighting circuit. He easily wins his first fight and continues to face harder opponents. The circuit decides to make him a permanent resident as they make means for him to live at a guard’s apartment. The guard goes by the name of Captain (played by Ronald Cheng) who is saving his money for a very special purpose. He also possesses many strange talents including some kung-fu inspired magic. From there the threesome descend into a world of underground fighting where everything is not what it seems and action surrounds them until it is uncovered by an explosive and unimaginable finale.
Unimaginable because it makes no blooming sense. The movie goes along fine and then the last twenty minutes cascade into a plot of little sense and one of those moments that can be only described by the phrase “What the F…?”. Obviously, I’m not going to spoil it, but it really ruins the tone of the movie. The only thing the director Dennis Law didn’t do in the final sequences was get Captain run over by a double decker bus.
Speaking of Captain, one of the places where the movie shined was Ronald Cheng. His portrayal of Captain and his character was awesome. He stole the show and I can only hope he gets his own vehicle action movie wise to be the main star in. The humor was well placed and we saw many facets to his character develop as we went through the film.
The other shining moment in the movie was the fighting. It included a lot of what is called now “Wire-Fu”, but felt rather clean and believable (except for maybe a few of those roundhouses). A good display by Wu Jing and his acting was pretty decent as well. There is some nice acting through the film including Miki Yeung’s portrayal of Siu Tin and Theresa Fu’s portrayal of Chui Chi, Siu’s friend and a prostitute whose desire to become famous doesn’t go too well.
This film is shot in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The print looks great and Dragon Dynasty makes the movie look like a million bucks. Colors are accurate, and the action looks great up close or far away. The scenes appear to be lavish even when the backdrop is somewhat uncomplicated like an abandoned warehouse or back alley.
Audio choices are always plentiful in Dragon Dynasty discs. We get Cantonese and English in 5.1 and the grand daddy Cantonese in brilliant DTS. Great stuff here as action scenes roll into your speaker and you experience kicks from all angles. Everything is crisp and nothing feels like muffled except for the dialog in a few places. Most will watch the DTS track with Subs turned on but even a few who know Cantonese might find themselves turning on some subtitles to compliment what is going on for the speaking scenes. Subtitles are provided in Spanish, English and English SDH.
- Automatic Trailers: Dog Bite Dog, The City of Violence and Dragon Heat(starring Sammo Hung and Michael Biehn, count me in!).
- Audio Commentary by director Dennis Law & Hong Kong Expert Bey Logan: Bey is informative as always and the director adds a lot of creed to the movie. Several things of interest here, Dennis Law corrects Logan a lot. Not to the point where it distracts but you can certainly pick up on things that Logan was not correct about. The second was that in China, the police were more central to the story. Since they showed up only at the end, I am kinda interested how that came about. The final thing was apparently there were Deleted and Extended Scenes in the movie but failed to appear on the dvd. Tsk, tsk Dragon Dynasty for not delivering those.
- A Dragon Rising: A Featurette w/ Leading Man Wu Jing 21:34: He goes over his training here, getting knocked out, and having to do 10 fight scenes. He seems incredibly passionate about his work and has a bright future. Though he might want to drop the next “Jet Li” tag, he’s good but he’s no Jet Li.
- The Ringmaster: An Interview with Director Dennis Law 27:07: The only featurette in English (the rest are subtitled), Dennis speaks at length about the making of his movie. The picture originally started as a prostitute/pimp story and ended up as Fatal Contact. (Kong would the ho and Siu Tin would be driving the Cadillac, any questions?) He also talks some about the ending and how he scripted the fights in a Street Fighter 2 video game flavor. No Hado-kens I guess though.
- Working Girl: An Interview with Co-Star Theresa Fu 10:03: Theresa played the prostitute in the film, she is a lot prettier off-screen, that’s for sure. She explains how her character grew from a bit part to a supporting actress. She also explains crying which always seem difficult for actors.
- Young and Dangerous: An Interview w/ co-star Miki Yeung 14:34: Also prettier off screen, Miki does a character comparison with herself and how they have very little in common. Well except determination, this is probably the blandest of the interviews. It is also interesting that all of the interviews mention Ronald Cheng but the great supporting actor is nowhere to be found in the extras.
- Life is A Contact Sport: Behind the Scenes of Fatal Contact 31:32: This is more a showcase of the training sessions that Wu Jing worked in. They start out discussing the opening title sequence and then delve into each fight. Good for those interested in how one would train for the fight scenes.
- Original Theatrical Trailer 1:47: Original trailer from the Far East. Always interesting to see how they push these.
Movies like this are always so frustrating to me. They start off with a good story, have good action and I get pumped for whatever ending comes. Then it goes horribly off the map and ends up me clutching my head and ready to throw my copy of the dvd into a nearby lake. The actors do a very good job and Ronald Cheng steals the show as the captivating Captain. The dvd is also top notch and can only truly be marked down for the lack of deleted scenes (which is mentioned in the commentary) and the lack of Ronald Cheng who is so wonderful in the film. Another fine dvd from Dragon Dynasty (a little sloppy) but only recommended if you are an appreciator of Hong Kong Cinema or must own every Dragon Dynasty Ultimate Edition that comes out.
Other Coverage & Reviews
- DVDTalk.com – “This film shows a perfect example of why Hong Kong isn’t recapturing the magic of old when it comes to martial arts films.”