Dragon (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
April 15, 2013 by Dennis Amith
“Dragon” is an exciting martial arts film with amazing fight choreography! While I have seen better Peter Chan, Donnie Yen and Takeshi Kaneshiro films, there is no doubt that martial arts action film fans will enjoy “Dragon”. It’s definitely one of the better martial arts films I have seen on video released in 2013 so far!
TITLE: Dragon (Wu-xia)
FILM RELEASE: 2011
DURATION: 98 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1 Aspect Ratio, Mandarin Chinese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English, Spanish
COMPANY: Radius TWC/Anchor Bay Entertainment
RATED: R (for Violence)
Release Date: April 16, 2013
Directed by Peter Chan
Written by Oi Wah Lam
Produced by Peter Chan, Yuet-Jan Hui
Co-Produced by Keyan Dong, Tao Hong, Wenbo Jiang, York Lu
Music by KWong Wing Chan, Peter Kam, Chatchai Pongprapaphan
Cinematography by Yiu-Fai Lai, Jake Pollok
Edited by Derek Hui
Production Design by Chung Man Yee
Art Direction by Li Sun
Costume Design by Dora Ng
Takeshi Kaneshiro as Xu Bai-jiu
Xiao Ran Li
Wei Tang as Ayu
Yu Wang as THe Master
Donnie Yen as Liu Jin-xi
Liu Jin-xi (Donnie Yen) is a village craftsman whose quiet life is irrevocably shattered by the arrival of two notorious gangsters in the local general store. When Liu single-handedly saves the shopkeeper’s life, he comes under investigation by detective Xu Bai-jiu (Takeshi Kaneshiro). Convinced that Liu’s martial arts mastery belies a hidden history of training by one of the region’s vicious clans, Xu doggedly pursues the shy hero — and draws the attention of China’s criminal underworld in the process.
Filmmaker Peter Chan (“The Warlords”, “Perhaps Love”, “Comrades: Almost a Love Story”) and writer Oi Wah Lam (“Purple Storm”, “Perhaps Love” and “The Warlords) are best known for their film collaborations in Hong Kong.
And the two return with their exciting, action-packed martial arts film “Dragon” (“Wu-Xia”) starring Donnie Yen (“Ip Man”, “Hero”, “Iron Monkey”), Takeshi Kaneshiro (“Chungking Express”, “House of Flying Daggers”, “Red Cliff”) and Wei Tang (“Lust, Caution”, “Man-Choo”, “Finding Mr. Right”).
The film was nominated for eleven Hong Kong Film Awards and won two awards for “Best Cinematography” and “Best Original Score” and did very well in the Chinese box office grossing over 100 million yuan on opening week. Now, the hit martial arts film will be released in the U.S. on April 16th courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
“Dragon” is set in 1917 in early Republic China at Liu Village. One day, two bandits enter the village demanding money from the owner of a general store. Beating on the store owner and his wife, Liu Jinxi (portrayed by Donnie Yen), comes to their aid but what appears as if he is unable to fight them, he manages to evade their killer blows and manages to take both of them out in battle. Earning the praise of the villagers and his wife Ayu (portrayed by Wei Tang) and his two young children.
While praised by the villagers for being a hero and defeating the convicts, a detective named Xu Baijiu (portrayed by Takeshi Kaneshiro) is conducting an autopsy and learns that one of the bandits that had died is the notorious bandit Yan Dongsheng. Feeling that this criminal is too much of a challenge to be taken down by Liu Jinxi, Xu Baijiu feels that something is not right about the family man.
As he investigates further, he realizes that Yan Dongsheng died from a strike on the Vagus Nerve which caused brain hemorrhaging but to execute that move, must mean that Liu Jinxi must know the various points in the body and that this normal family man who is a paper worker, must be skilled in martial arts to beat this major criminal.
And as Xu Baijiu tries to get close to the family, so he can continue his investigation, we learn that Xu is a person who tries to suppress his human emotions through acupuncture after putting trust on a boy by returning him home to his family. The boy ended up killing his family with poison and Xu Baijiu barely survived. While he takes acupuncture to suppress emotion, he takes another to slow down the poison in his body.
As Xu Baijiu continues more tests which include having Liu Jinxi pushed over a bridge and falling in the waters, to striking him with a sickle, Xu Baijiu is persistent and non-apologetic for his pursuit of Liu Jinxi.
But when Liu Jinxi tells him a story about his past, Xu Baijiu’s assistant loos into it and finds out instead that Liu Jinxi may be the man known as Tang Long, the second in command of the 72 Demons. Known for brutally murdering a butcher’s family and his young children in Jingzhou ten years ago.
Believing that Liu Jinxi may be the murderer Tang Long, he seeks to find a way to have him captured. But what happens when Xu Baijiu keeps digging further into Liu Jinxi’s true past?
“Dragon” is presented in 1080p High Definition and presented in 2:35:1. While picture quality is very good, with lush surroundings and very good set design to capture China ala 1917. What captures your attention throughout the film is the choreographed fighting. Both Yiu-Fai Lai and Jake Pollock did a magnificent job of capturing the fight scenes, and the use of CG to give the feeling that the location of where the film was shot is near the cliffs and waterfall, the combination of real scenery and green screen was used effectively.
Close-ups of characters show plenty of detail and black levels are nice and deep. For the most part, picture quality is very good for the film!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Dragon” is presented in Mandarin Chinese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. While the film benefits from its action and the breaking of wood to people being thrown all over the place, the film’s lossless soundtrack can be summed up with clear dialogue, beautiful musical score from Kwong Wing Chan, Peter Kam and Chatchai Pongpraphan and crowd ambiance. For the most part, the lossless soundtrack was very good, not very immersive but yet appropriate for this film.
Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.
“Dragon” comes with the following special features:
- The Making of Dragon – (22:27) Risks and Rewards, Framing the Action, Choosing Jimmy Wang Yu, A Different Role for Takeshi Kaneshiro, The Ins and Outs of Acupuncture, Family Dynamics, Tang Wei in the Countryside, Wai Ying Hung on Working with Donnie Yen.
- Featurette with Donnie Yen – (5:40) Featuring three featurettes featuring Donnie Yen: Staging the Action, Influences and Inspiration and On Set, On Location.
- “Lost in Jianghu” Music Video – (5:14) Music video for “Lost in Jianghu”, theme of “Dragon”.
When it comes to Asian cinema, the fact is that filmmaker Peter Chan has worked on some major films from “Comrades: Almost a Love Story”, “The Warlords” and “Perhaps Love”, producers know they are getting a director who has consecutively led to box office hits.
And part of that is due to Peter Chan managing to land the top stars of Asia in his films. And with “Dragon”, it’s no different. Box office hit in China and you have two of the top Asian talents starring in the film, Donnie Yen and Takeshi Kaneshiro.
Donnie Yen is a staple of martial arts films especially in the last few years, after seeing “Ip Man”, you can’t see him doing anything less than that. And what I like about Donnie Yen’s involvement in a film is that he pushes for amazing fight choreography and does not take on martial arts films that are weak when it comes to fighting. And like his previous “Ip Man” films, “Dragon” showcases that fantastic flair of fight choreography at the highest level.
As for Takeshi Kaneshiro, you have one of the best dramatic actors. He may not be a martial arts fighter but he makes it up in the more dramatic scenes. In this case, an investigator who knows there is more to Liu Jinxi (portrayed by Donnie Yen) that meets the eye. A relentless investigator seeking out the truth, the things he does in order to prove Liu Jinxi wrong, definitely is surprising as he intentionally pushes Liu off a bridge or sticks a sickle on his shoulder.
You also get actress Wei Tang who took a risk in Ang Lee’s 2007 film “Lust, Caution” and as a result for participating in the film, she was blacklisted by the Chinese government and losing endorsement deals. Despite being 34-years of age, she still manages to look very young on camera. But she provides another dramatic angle as a wife who wants to stick by her husband and hopes he doesn’t abandon the children, when his past life is revealed.
As for the Blu-ray release, while picture quality and the lossless soundtrack are very good. You also get a good amount of special features which I’m happy to see included on this Blu-ray release (as many Asian films released in the USA tend to skimp on special features).
While I enjoyed “Dragon” for being one of the enjoyable martial arts films I have seen so far in 2013, having watched so many Peter Chan, Donnie Yen and Takeshi Kaneshiro films, it’s hard for me to say this is their best film. Enjoyable…yes. Awesome fight choreography…yes. But an engaging storyline? If anything, it was a bit more of a popcorn action martial arts film and nothing more or less than that.
The film tries to explain the deep hate that Liu Jin-xi has towards his father, but it would have been great to establish visually of why we should despite his father and helping set up this amazing confrontation between father and estranged son. Also, the film ends with somewhat of uncertainty.
Overall, “Dragon” is an exciting martial arts film with amazing fight choreography! While I have seen better Peter Chan, Donnie Yen and Takeshi Kaneshiro films, there is no doubt that martial arts action film fans will enjoy “Dragon”. It’s definitely one of the better martial arts films I have seen on video released in 2013 so far!
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