Directed by Peter Chan, who was once called the ‘most valuable filmmaker’ by the Hong Kong Filmart (International TV and film market), Dragon (title in original language: Wu Xia) is the tale of local paper tradesman and family man, Liu Jin-xi (Donnie Yen).
When two thugs start trouble in his town, Liu somehow manages to defeat them and for his efforts, he is hailed as a local hero while rousing the suspicions of detective Xu Bai-Ju (Takeshi Kaneshiro), who wonders how Average Joe Liu can survive and kill two sword-wielding bandits. As he investigates the would-be hero, Xu eventually finds out that Liu is in fact a highly skilled martial artist and former second-in-command to a murderous clan of warriors, who want him back at any cost.
Film fans will surely compare this with David Cronenberg’s History of Violence (2005), and it’s obvious to jump to this conclusion – simply swap guns with fists and swords. The plot is simple enough to follow, allowing Chan to engage the viewer with brilliant cinematography, quick edits and wonderfully choreographed fight sequences. The deductive scenes by the curious Detective Xu are reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes – analytical and conclusive, they bring a differently intellectual edge to martial arts films of late, though accommodating the traditional themes of honour, family loyalty and social equality; certain themes that are essential and consistent with wuxia film.
Continuing a somewhat steady thread of period-specific martial arts films, Donnie Yen has an extra credit as the action choreographer in his most entertaining role to date. Kaneshiro’s Xu is an intriguing character; he fights empathy and illness using medicine and his conflicted intentions to apprehend Liu but protect him at the same time makes him a hard character to pin down. Along with Lust, Caution‘s Tang Wei as Liu’s wife, supporting actors include Kara Hui and screen legend Jimmy Wang Yu – who is widely credited as the first Hong Kong kung fu star . Hui and Wang have quite short roles, but in their screentime, actions clearly speak louder than words in two battle sequences that can be described as epic.
Action-packed and beautifully choreographed, Dragon is an immensely enjoyable film with Donnie Yen in a brilliant lead performance.
Dragon is out in UK cinemas on Friday 5th April 2013.
Director: Peter Chan
Writer: Oi Wah Lam
Stars: Donnie Yen, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Kara Hui
Runtime: 114 min
Country: Hong Kong, China