AKA: Dragon Strike
Director: Jackie Chan
Writer: Jackie Chan, Edward Tang, Barry Wong
Producer: Raymond Chow
Cast: Jackie Chan, Mars, Chan Wai Man, Paul Chang, Suet Lee, Tien Feng, Wang In Sik, Tai Bo, Cheng Hong Yip, Kwan Yung Moon, Danny Chow Yun Kin, Fung Fung, Fung Hak On
Running Time: 95 min.
Dragon Lord begins as two sons from rich families prepare for a team contest involving some bamboo pyramid with a football resting at the top. The opening lines of dialogue go something like this:
Mars: Hey guys, have come up with a game plan yet?
Jackie: We will make up the plan on the way!
This is ironic because it seems that Jackie followed his own advice in putting together this very enjoyable kung fu comedy. More comedy than kung fu, the story is like Starbucks; it’s all over the place. You get the impression that he invited a hundred pals together AND THEN decided what to do. Even without much logical flow, Jackie’s natural charisma and athleticism, as usual, persuades the audience to follow him anywhere.
This is also a rare Jackie role where the kung fu isn’t central to the story. While he is a martial arts student, he spends most of the time trying to avoid his studies and fool his father to the contrary with the help of his servants and teacher. The film’s outcome does not depend on Jackie’s ability to master a fighting style beat a foe. I personally think it is more about growing out of boyish selfishness and caring for something bigger than himself like the Chinese antiques (read: national honor) imperiled by the end of the film.
But Jackie fans don’t care about explication. They want action. Here is where Dragon Lord runs a little thin. Besides the excellent and complicated brawl of the finale and a humorous scuffle with two soldiers, there really isn’t much in terms of kung fu. There are, however, some quite wonderful and dangerous scenarios involving Jackie stranded on a rooftop with bad guys jamming spears through the shingles at Jackie’s slightest movement and a Look-what-I-can-do stunt with Jackie jumping over a huge lit candelabra of which he has absolutely no business clearing with such ease.
Note: For some reason, two sequences where included that chronicle the events of a funky sport that is best described as a cross between badminton and soccer and the aforementioned bamboo pyramid thing. Both are so poorly edited that you cannot follow the action, but also requiring such skillful timing and athletic ability. I enjoyed the audacity of it, but ultimately found it to be filler in a film with plenty of it already.
Reefer’s Rating: 7/10
I have to say I was surprised by my reaction to this film. I expected to dislike the sports, since I was so bored by the car racing in Thunderbolt, but they were the best part of the movie for me! The initial competition (some kind of football) was balletic and brutal at the same time. These guys managed graceful acrobatic leaps and falls while losing none of the raw energy of the ‘sport’. The shuttlecock competition was equally mesmerizing. The incredible precision of movement really showcased Jackie and his team’s ability to do anything athletic superbly.
The fights were a bit of a disappointment, though. I enjoyed the first big one in the temple (after waiting almost an hour for it!), but the final showdown was a little too frenetic and sloppy for me. And I’ll eat this review if it wasn’t undercranked! I know, in past reviews of this time period, I complained that the pace was too slow and now I’m saying it was too fast (apparently there’s no pleasing me!).
As for the plot, it’s best left unmentioned. All in all, it’s infinitely better than anything by Lo Wei, but nowhere near the league of what he would accomplish in just a year, with Project A. After reading his book, I know where his head was, so all I can say is I’m glad that he realized he was out of control and got centered again, with the help of his Opera School brothers.
Ro’s Rating: 6.5/10
This was one of my favorite JC films. I know it’s kind of old, and some of the dialogue is stupid, (who would watch these things or dialogue anyways?) but this film has awesome action sequences, and fights that outclass special effects. I love playing rugby and hacky sack, so when I saw the bun race and the shuttlecock soccer scenes I was pretty stoked. I got some people to watch this one with me, but they didn’t believe that Jackie was really doing all the stuff he did. If you’ve seen this one already and only thought it was so-so you need to watch it again and look for what’s realy going on in some of the better fighting scenes.
A few of my favorites: Intro/Race to the Top: Four teams are climbing a flimsy wooden tower to retreive a rugby ball they call the “bun”. When Jackie is almost to the top someone pulls on his jersey and he loses his grip. If you look closely you’ll see that he tumbles all the way to the ground! Rooftop Kite Sequence: Jackie is on top of the bad guys hideout trying to get his kite back (unlikely, but hey it’s a movie) when they start shoving REAL spears through the roof to try and stab him. You know that they coreographed this sequence, but many of those spears are less than half-a-second away from stabbing him when they go through the roof. This is the kind of buster keatonesque madness that makes Jackie great.
Shuttlecock kick: In the hacky sack match Jackie shoots halfway across the court to make the winning kick. This may not seem like much, but it’s harder than it looks. It took 1000 takes to get this one right, but it has paid off. In many of his later movies you can see him kick something at someone with pinpoint accuracy. This is a direct result of practicing this kick. Fight in the temple: Jackie fights two thugs in a temple. His character in this film is not the greatest fighter, and he does take a few hits. But check out the scene where he does a standing jump over a candle rack. He clears it by so little that he actually puts the candles out! Try that one Van Damme! Fight in the barn: I love it when Jackie clobbers that guy in the end. “Do you think he is dead?” “If he’s not we are in real trouble!” There’s a point though when Jackie goes over the railing, flips on a cross bar, and lands on- Cowboy. That’s right, Mars is there to break Jackie’s fall, and both hurt their backs. Ow!
If I were going to introduce someone to JC films and I could show them any three of his movies I would probably show this one, along with Police Force and First Strike. These are all good overall films which showcase his abilities in a different way.
Andrew’s Rating: 8.5/10
This opens up with a nifty contact sport that looks quite painful, but then it goes into a lame-assed storyline about Jackie and his friend competing for the attention of some girl. It was funny enough watching Jackie cheat off his shoe and get pissed on, but for the most part, the middle of this movie is a drag. Worst of all is the ultra-tedious game played with a badminton birdie. When you reach that part of the movie, it’s a good time to read WAR AND PEACE if you haven’t done so already. The film redeems itself at the end, though, especially with the nice and crippling fight in the barn (although it’s fairly difficult to sympathize with a character who doesn’t even question whether or not a few old pots are worth getting killed for). Overall the movie is good but not great… as with Fearless Hyena, I would have preferred less dipshit humor and more serious fighting.
Numskull’s Rating: 6/10