Dragon - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
IT’S been two years since Peter Chan’s Dragon made its debut at Cannes but the wait has been worth it.
A slick martial arts thriller cum morality play, this has the brains to match its brawn and is a genuinely worthwhile entry into the genre.
Set in the Yunnan province in 1917, the film picks up as peaceful handyman Liu Jinxi (Donnie Yen) is forced to come to the rescue of a local store manager when he is attacked by two bandits.
But Liu’s ability in fending off and killing two notorious assailants arouses the interest of investigating officer Xu Baijiu (The House of Flying Daggers‘ Takeshi Kaneshiro) who gradually comes to suspect that Liu is actually a renowned killer in hiding.
This, in turn, attracts the interest of The 72 Demons, who come searching for their former second in command, thereby placing the lives of Liu and his new family at risk.
Chan’s film shares thematic similarities with David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence but also manages to put a fresh and consistently appealing spin on the man with a secret past backdrop.
Early on, the tone is almost light-hearted as Liu unwittingly becomes a local hero but as things become more serious, and ethics come into play, proceedings take a satisfyingly darker turn.
The action, too, is first-rate with all of the set pieces dazzling in some way, while also displaying some ingenuity. Xu’s dissection of the opening brawl, for example, cleverly slows things down and replays them so that you can properly see and appreciate the skill in Liu’s martial arts mastery, while big set piece moments with both Hong Kong superstar Kara Hui and Shaw brothers legend Jimmy Wang Yu are truly memorable.
Yen, for his part, makes a likeable hero (channelling outward peace with inner conflict well), while Kanisharo makes an appealing Sherlock Holmes wannabe complete with endearing eccentricities of his own.
Put together, Dragon offers a genuinely impressive action-thriller that delights and engages on many different levels.
In Mandarin, with subtitles
Running time: 93mins
UK Release Date: May 3, 2013